Commission on the Status of Women
4th & 5th Meetings* (AM & PM)
WOMEN’S EQUAL PARTICIPATION IN PEACE PROCESSES, MEN’S ROLE IN ACHIEVING GENDER
EQUALITY ADDRESSED BY WOMEN’S COMMISSION IN TWO PANEL DISCUSSIONS
The Commission on the Status of Women continued its forty-eighth session today with panel discussions on women’s equal participation in conflict prevention and peace-building, and on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality.
Addressing the discussion on women and conflict, Ariane Brunet, of the Canadian Advisory Council of Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, noted that men still dominated media images of peace processes -– as belligerents, participants, negotiators, commentators, enforcers and implementers. The visible absence of women was particularly striking, given that they often made up a disproportionate number of internally displaced persons and refugees.
Women’s rights activists were continually hindered in attempts to boost women’s participation in conflict resolution and post-conflict peace-building, she pointed out. They were faced with such obstacles as: a lack of information about the timing and location of formal and informal negotiations, particularly closed door negotiations that excluded women; difficulties in obtaining visas to attend negotiations; national laws or traditions that restricted women’s movement; and a lack of access to communication technologies and networks.
Nancy Rocio Tapias Torredo, Consultant to the Gender Issues Oversight of the Presidential Advisory Council for the Equality of Women of Colombia, said that men and women in her country still lacked inclusion and representation, especially in peace-building. Currently, women were attempting to help prevent violent conflict and build peace through protests and demonstrations. The strength women brought to conflict prevention and peace-building prevented humanitarian tragedies from becoming even greater, and their efforts to maintain the family and society during crises was vital.
Amal Adib Sabbagh, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, noted that women’s involvement, or lack of it, in the talks leading to electoral legislation would affect their participation in politics, both as voters and as candidates. Women must ensure that relevant laws fully respected their rights laid down in the Anti-Discrimination Convention and other relevant international legal instruments, and set up mechanisms for ensuring that those rights would be enjoyed. In light of the Beijing Platform for Action, governments must give political parties strong incentives to involve women fully in party operations.
Other panellists included Lois Lewis Bruthus, Director General of the Organization for Children and Adolescent Mothers of Liberia; and Yusuf Mahmoud, Director, Africa II Division, Department of Political Affairs.
During the ensuing discussion, speakers highlighted the need to institutionalize women’s participation in peace processes, and train women in peace-building, negotiation and prevention. They also stressed the importance of elections in post-conflict situations, which were a “golden opportunity” to choose bodies that would review past laws and lay down new ones, and asked panellists to highlight barriers to women’s participation in mediation and peace-building.
Responding to that question, panellists pointed to nations where norms and customs kept women in bondage to their husbands, and prevented them from speaking out. They also underscored the lack of political will to include women in peace negotiations, and the lack of women at decision-making levels in the United Nations.
In the afternoon discussion on the role of men and boys in gender equality, R.W. Connell, University of Sydney, Australia, noted that men and boys were now in the foreground of gender-equality discussions, and must be thought of as agents of change and partners in reform. Contrary to popular opinion, there was nothing in men’s brains that prevented them from living in equality with women. Even at the level of individual families, there were many men who had tried to construct “fair families” by sharing child-rearing and other domestic tasks.
He outlined several vital ways the Commission could further the continuing struggle towards gender equality. It could highlight reasons why men should support gender equality, pointing out that: it was right; it offered gains offsetting losses of privilege; it benefited whole communities; and it meant a better life for women and girls. The Commission could also recommend specific programmes aimed at gender equality, and help raise consciousness to engage men’s passions in equality’s cause.
Panellist Bertil Lindblad, Deputy Director, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), noted that the AIDS epidemic was both a global challenge and an opportunity for both men and women in the struggle towards gender equality. More women and girls become infected globally each year, and gender inequality fuelled the rate of infection. It was critical to gear programmes towards men, women, girls and boys alike, and to look at the role men and boys could play in response to the epidemic.
The involvement of men in activities to combat HIV/AIDS and also to stop gender-based violence was relatively new, stated Gender Consultant Njoki Wainaina, although men’s programmes now existed in several countries. The demand for male training and sensitization on HIV/AIDS and related issues was growing, and men’s support, counselling and spiritual guidance groups were quickly emerging, especially at the community level. Without sensitization, awareness creation and mobilization, many men would not have the consciousness, awareness, knowledge, analytical skills, willingness and commitment to act in a timely and appropriate ways.
Jorge Lyra of Brazil also participated in the panel.
During the ensuing discussion, delegates noted that men were becoming more experienced in child care, which would hopefully prepare the ground for new and more equal roles for boys and girls. Norway’s representative stressed that men’s cooperation was vital in achieving gender equality, and that men’s gains from great equality must also be emphasized.
Other speakers stressed that culture defined the roles and attitudes of boys and girls, and that change aiming at gender equality must begin in the family at an early age. The significance of gender equality and training from early education must be emphasized, so that boys and girls progressed into adult life free from sex-stereotyped attitudes that resulted in wasted ability, a lack of economic and social well-being or inferiority feelings.
The Commission will meet again on Wednesday at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate.
The Commission on the Status of Women met today to continue its forty-eighth session with two panel discussions. The first was to focus on women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building, and the second on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality. (For background information, see Press Release WOM/1435 of 1 March.)
Panellist Presentations for Panel Discussion 1
NANCY ROCIO TAPIAS TORREDO, Consultant to the Gender Issues Oversight of the Presidential Advisory Council for the Equality of Women of Colombia, said that men and women in her country were considered equal at the formal, policy level, but that women still lacked inclusion and representation, especially in peace-building. Currently, women were attempting to help prevent violent conflict and build peace through protests and demonstrations.
In 2000, when peace dialogues in Colombia began, women from all over the country participated in peace-building discussions, but sexist stereotypes blocked their message and stole weight from their arguments. The greatest women’s march took place in July 2002 in Bogota, when more than 30,000 women met to reject war and commit themselves to peace. Related actions had been vital in promoting the empowerment and leadership of women, helping to illuminate their ideas and strengthen civil society. Women who had been displaced by war also worked for peace, giving a human face to pain and reason for hope.
The strength women brought to conflict prevention and peace-building prevented humanitarian tragedies from becoming even greater, and their contribution to maintaining the family and society was vital. To prevent violent conflict, the country must strengthen international guidelines recommending that gender perspectives be streamlined in education, that gender language be used, and that appropriate actions be taken to enhance women’s skills, so that peace-building would include women’s proposals.
LOIS LEWIS BRUTHUS, Director General of the Organization for Children and Adolescent Mothers in Monrovia, Liberia, said that for the past three decades the world’s attention had been focused on eradicating discrimination against women and achieving gender equality. Achievement of that goal, however, had been rather slow. For, indeed, the issue of gender equality was a complex subject, which required sober reflection. The roots of discrimination against women were deeply entrenched in traditions, customs, religious norms and constitutions. It was a fact that, even in the twenty-first century, there were a number of women in the world that did not have voting rights or rights to education and basic health.
Turning to the need to incorporate women’s rights into peace agreements, she highlighted some recommendations from an expert group meeting convened in Ottawa, Canada, in November 2003 by the Division for the Advancement of Women. Among other things, the meeting focused on the obligation of negotiators, facilitators and funding agencies to adopt measures to facilitate the participation of men and women in peace processes. All actors needed to ensure that the provisions of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) were incorporated into peace agreements. Recently, three peace agreements were signed in the West African subregion. The mediators should be criticized for failing to use those opportunities to push the concept of women’s participation.
The meeting also discussed the obligation of the content of peace agreements regarding legal, physical and political security, she said. The experts had provided guidelines for provisions for peace agreements, as well as the inclusion of gender specific language, as opposed to gender neutral language, as seen in recent agreements. It was also necessary to ensure that the needs of female combatants and child soldiers were given special attention. There was also an obligation regarding the content of peace agreements in the area of social and economic security. Experts agreed on the need to elaborate gender specific language to ensure the full and active participation of women in post-conflict development.
She noted that 1 billion women lived in abject poverty. Democracy could not survive in poverty, just as equality could not take root in poverty. No one would give women their rights; they must work to attain them. Women, together, must find their rightful place and work in harmony with men.
ARIANE BRUNET, member of the Advisory Council of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice of Canada, said action was needed on texts and expressions of commitment by the United Nations, States and governments to enable women. Steps must also be taken to implement binding international treaties and less strictly binding but “morally persuasive” international declarations and programmes of action. It was doubtful that women were making progress in upholding minimum international standards of protection.
She said the forty-seventh Commission on the Status of women had been unable to reach consensus on the agreed conclusions on violence against women and the General Assembly, at its fifty-eighth session, had abandoned the omnibus resolution on violence against women. The failure to uphold minimum standards could also be seen in continued disparities within the global market economy and militarization, as well as the “security obsession” of all societies. The “war on terrorism” was being waged in part by playing on people’s fears, by telling them they were potential or real targets and must forfeit some of theirs and others rights.
Despite the commitments of the Beijing Platform for Action and numerous other texts, she continued, images of peace processes projected by the media remained unfailingly those of men -– as belligerents, participants, negotiators, commentators, enforcers and implementers. The visible absence of women was particularly striking, given that they often made up a disproportionate number of internally displaced persons and refugees.
Women’s rights activists continually faced constraints to women’s participation in conflict resolution and post-conflict peace-building, she noted. Those included a lack of information and the failure to translate and disseminate information; a lack of information about the timing and location of formal and informal negotiations, particularly closed-door negotiations that excluded women; difficulties in obtaining visas to attend peace negotiations, meetings and conferences; national laws or traditions that restricted women’s right to freedom of movement; and lacking access to communication technologies and networks.
AMAL ADIB SABBAGH, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, focused on the discussions that took place in the expert group meeting on enhancing women’s participation in electoral processes in post-conflict countries, held in Glen Cove, New York, in January. The thematic issues which emerged during the meeting were the legal framework, political representation/ political parties, voter education/civic education, election administration and election observation. The group discussed each area regarding the challenges women faced, the lessons learned and the priority areas for action.
There were various challenges that faced women’s electoral participation that could potentially arise from the legal framework adopted in a post-conflict country, she noted. The level of women’s involvement, or lack of it, in the consultations that led to the development of legislation that directly affected their participation in electoral processes, both as voters and as candidates, was a major factor. The priority action was to ensure that relevant laws gave full expression to the rights of women as set out in the Anti-Discrimination Convention and other relevant international legal instruments, and to establish mechanisms for ensuring that those rights would be enjoyed.
Challenges to women’s political representation in political parties stemmed from the fact that most parties were male-dominated structures, where women’s participation and gender equality were of low priority, she said. In addition, party lists were often constructed in a way that worked against the election of women candidates. In light of the Beijing Platform for Action, the priority action was for governments to implement processes that gave political parties the strongest incentives to involve women fully in all aspects of the parties’ operations. In the area of voter education and civic education, the delayed development of electoral procedures in post-conflict countries might leave inadequate time for the development and implementation of voter and civic education programmes. Some best practices identified included developing guidelines for organizations that conducted voter education to ensure that a gender perspective was included in curriculum development.
The challenges to enhancing women’s participation in the area of election administration were numerous, she stated. Ensuring women’s equitable political participation could be influenced by the logistics and mechanisms in place for running an election. Women might be disadvantaged by inappropriate polling procedures. Actions which compromised the secrecy of the ballot were of particular concern. The best practices identified had contributed to furthering women’s participation, such as the use of separate polling stations. The priority action identified was for governments to establish electoral procedures that did not discriminate against women, and which were administered by neutral bodies sensitive to gender issues and in which women were represented at all levels. The priority action in the area of election observation was for governments to facilitate the observation of elections in a manner that gave due priority to gender issues.
YUSUF MAHMOUD, Director, Africa II Division, Department of Political Affairs, outlined several building blocks to achieving gender equality and increased participation for women in conflict prevention and peace-building. Those included clear achievable goals; empowered, well-organized women and men in pursuit of common goals with minimal support; women in decision-making positions, so that progress could be achieved at all levels; well informed leaders and policy-makers; practitioners of gender equality; and an enforcement or monitoring entity to ensure accountability and implementation of goals.
At the international level, he said, much had been done to empower women. Gender advisers were now holding key positions, the Secretary-General had set up monitoring mechanisms, special envoys were routinely asked about programmes to implement United Nations resolutions, and resolutions were being adopted that were more gender sensitive. He noted that enlightened practitioners and policy-makers promoting gender equality were vital, and that several opportunities to claim such decision-makers had been missed. Gender advisers needed greater visibility and support at the political level. Financial assistance was also needed, since much could be done with existing programmes and strategies. Opportunities should also be taken to insert women’s concerns into budget debates.
Questions and Comments
As the Commission began its first round of questions and comments, a number of delegations emphasized how crucial the full participation of women was in all aspects of peace processes. The representative of Namibia stressed the need to have clear programmes targeting women when it came to reintegration, as well as to include the gender dimension in the negotiation process. Norway’s representative noted that women’s equal and active participation was essential for democracy, both in times of peace and war. Her country would continue to support activities that supported women’s participation in post-conflict peace building, as well as the inclusion of gender units in United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Another speaker highlighted the need to institutionalise the participation of women in peace processes and prevent their exclusion, as well as the need for training women in peace-building, negotiation and prevention. The issue of neglecting widows and the wives of those missing due to conflict was also raised.
Ms. TORREDO, addressing the issue of widows, noted that those women had to become the head of their families and had taken on roles they did not have before. In Colombia, State and civil organizations were working to give food aid and humanitarian assistance to such women and were trying to broaden the scope of activities to empower them. While the situation of displacement in her country was a difficult one, Colombia’s experiences could be useful for others.
Ms. BRUTHUS emphasized that no one would give women their rights. Women must be able to come together and draw on their strength to gain the equality they demanded. Ways must be explored on how to share power with men. It was necessary to come to a position where women could share power with men in a harmonious way. While they had been short-changed in the past, it was time for women to buttress each other and make their voices heard.
Ms. SABBAGH noted the importance of elections in post-conflict situations, saying that such situations provided a “golden opportunity” for women. It was important to ensure that women could freely and independently choose their representatives to a body which would review past laws and promulgate new ones.
During the second round of comments, a delegate noted the importance of women moving away from traditional roles to combatant and command posts in conflict situations, so that their needs could be met. Another delegate stressed the need for existing international instruments to emphasize training in mediation for women. She also asked the panel to identify major barriers to women’s participation in mediation and peace-building.
Responding to that question, Ms. BRUTHUS drew attention to norms and customs under which many African women lived. In Liberia, for example, two laws governed marriage –- one for rural marriages and another for civil marriages. Once married, women were in bondage to their husbands, and were hindered from speaking out. Such traditions hindering the equal participation of women must be reviewed, she stressed, so that women could progress to the next stage.
Ms. BRUNET noted that women lacked information on peace negotiations and often lacked access to visas to attend them. Their basic rights often went unacknowledged, due to a lack of political will to include them. She stressed that women activists must be seriously considered by peace negotiators, since women could answer many vital questions on reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Addressing the same theme, Mr. MAHMOUD outlined several other barriers to women’s participation in peace processes. Those included a lack of training and information, particularly at the policy level, in peace and security; the lack of women at the decision-making level in the United Nations; and the absence of political will. He suggested that Member States draw up a list of experienced women and submit them to the Organization. He also noted that an upcoming regional meeting among all representatives of the Secretary-General in southern Africa could integrate a gender perspective in its work.
Ghana’s delegate addressed an earlier comment that there could be no gender equality when women were poor and dependent on their husbands. In her country, she said, women had done much to lessen that dependence by increasing their participation in decision-making at the local level. They were now vocal on such issues as children’s education, food, sanitation and drinking water.
A representative of the non-governmental organization Human Rights Advocates highlighted the problem of trafficking in women in times of conflict. Thousands of women watched their families being killed, and were then abducted and forced to live in sexual servitude, often with the complicity of the local police and military. The absence of such women from the peace table meant they had no recourse to crimes against them, which sent messages to the perpetrators that they would not be held responsible.
Responding to that comment, Ms. TORREDO said that trafficking in women was also a major concern in Colombia, and had worsened during armed conflict in the country. Now, the country had an inter-institutional committee, made up of government and civil society representatives, that was exploring strategies that Interpol and local police could use to combat trafficking. She stressed that the international community must also work against trafficking, taking the problem beyond mere policies to specific commitments.
In the third round of exchange, questions were asked regarding the need to focus in peacekeeping missions on the prosecution of violations of women’s human rights, and the role of those missions in dealing with such violations. One speaker drew attention to the need for strict codes of conduct in peacekeeping operations in order to have the highest level of conduct with respect to women and children, so as not to aggravate the situation. It was essential, she stated, that the conflict settlement phase address victims of war crimes, as well as the issue of national healing and reconciliation, among other things.
Noting that some women were not forthcoming, even when there was political will, one speaker asked what incentives were needed to encourage women to come forward. She also recommended that resolution 1325 (2000) be disseminated in various languages so as to educate women on their rights. Another speaker noted that the basis for guaranteeing women’s participation in peace processes and post-conflict peace-building was to ensure that their rights were respected at all times.
Based on her observations in Kashmir, India, a non-governmental organization representative noted that, although women were already involved in informal peace-building processes, their role in formal negotiations was marginal at best. Also, she urged the Commission to recognize cultural, ethnic and religious diversity among women in areas of conflict. Their diversity needed to be acknowledged within the context of policy making.
While political will was necessary, stated Ms. TORREDO, it was necessary to go beyond formal measures. Political will was not enough; a cultural transformation was needed, she said. It was also necessary to move beyond the dichotomy that stated that war was masculine and peace was feminine.
Ms. BRUTHUS noted that women traditionally preferred to take a back role. They were inhibited, based on the quality of their education. When women were made to feel that the decisions they made would be implemented, then they would feel they could come forward.
On the issue of violations of women’s human rights, Ms. BRUNET emphasized the need for allocating resources for gender biased training of judges at ad hoc tribunals. Reviewing national criminal codes was also important for prosecuting crimes against women in times of war. It was also important to map the gross violations already being committed. The issue of trafficking in peacekeeping missions also needed to be addressed.
Mr. MAHMOUD added that a lot was taking place in the peacekeeping and humanitarian fields to address various concerns. Many new peacekeeping missions were authorized under Chapter VII of the Charter, not only for the protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, but also for the promotion and protection of human rights with special attention to violence committed against women and girls. What was missing was training, specifically in the area of gender specific early warning.
Coming from the Arab world, Ms. SABBAGH stressed that conflicts impacted not just the countries in which they occurred, but also those in the surrounding region.
During the fourth and final round of comments, a delegate compared conflicts to pandemics like HIV/AIDS -– even if people were not infected with the disease, they were still affected by its consequences. She stressed that countries not at war would not be spared its ultimate consequences. Another representative noted that immediate economic and security needs often overrode any considerations for gender issues and women’s participation in peace-building.
Delegates also observed that all nations had proclaimed their political will to ensure women’s participation in peace processes, but questioned why there were so many problems in acting on that will. Why were women not integrated into observation missions, or negotiations for peace and post-conflict management? Congo’s representative called for solidarity among women in all nations in conflict, so that their voices would be heard, while Azerbaijan’s delegate urged international organizations to organize internally displaced women so that they could contribute to peace processes.
Panellist Presentations on Panel Discussion II
R.W. CONNELL, University of Sydney, Australia, said that the goal -– gender equality -– had not changed. What had changed was that men and boys, who had been in the background in gender-equality discussions, were now present in the foreground, alongside women and girls. That change meant it was necessary to think of men and boys as agents of change and partners in reform, and not just as sources of violence and injustice. That shift in thinking offered exciting possibilities for action. It was important to base thinking on accurate knowledge about men and boys. There had been an upsurge in social science research on men and boys and masculinity.
He highlighted three important conclusions of that research. The first conclusion was the great diversity among men and boys. There was no single pattern of masculinity, but rather multiple patterns of masculinity. It was very important for gender-equality policy to take into account the diversity among men and boys. For instance, it made no sense to design educational programmes for boys based on the premise that all boys were obsessed with football and guns. Adequate educational policy must recognize the full range of gender identities.
The second important conclusion was that in many situations, despite the diversity of masculinities, one pattern was locally dominant. When that pattern was narrow, it gave men reason to resist gender equality. The third conclusion was that many men supported gender equality. A broad cultural change was developing. It was important to recognize men’s capacity for equality. Contrary to popular opinion, there was nothing in men’s brains that prevented them from living in equality with women. Even at the level of individual families, there were many men who had tried to construct “fair families” by sharing child rearing and other domestic tasks.
The Commission could do four important things, he added. First, it could state the principles that governed change towards gender equality with the involvement of men. It could state the good reasons why men should support gender equality. Those reasons were that: it was right; it offered gains offsetting the losses of privilege; it benefited whole communities; and it meant a better life for women and girls. Second, the Commission could suggest broad policies to make it easier for men to share domestic labour. Third, it could recommend specific programmes. Finally, and most importantly, it could help raise consciousness, to engage men’s passions in the cause of gender equality.
JORGE LYRA, of the Papai Institute, Brazil, noted that women were educated to take care of others and themselves, to express their emotions, to be dependent on others, and to submit in different areas of their daily lives. Men, however, were trained to be autonomous and independent. They were not trained to take care of others or themselves, to express their emotions, or to ask for help in moments of crisis or difficulty. They were brought up to assume positions of power in different areas that could result in destructive or self-destructive lifestyles. Men and women were inserted into a social and historical context that defined their behaviour through complex processes of socialization that must be revised.
That revision should include educational campaigns dealing with violence against women, sexual and reproductive rights, and the issue of paternity, he said. It was also necessary to train professionals to work with men, develop educational material and obtain new resources for work with men. Money should be withdrawn from wars and invested in social projects. A field of work should be created, directed exclusively at men, aimed at uniting their efforts with female activities and focusing on sexuality, health and reproductive rights.
NJOKI WAINAINA, Gender Consultant, said there were many men in African families, communities, religious institutions, workplaces, parliaments, universities and schools who were committed to gender equality, and who could make a difference in ensuring greater progress towards achieving gender equality, social justice and peace. Gender inequality was the root cause of higher rates of violence against women and HIV/AIDS. Yet, most interventions had not addressed critical gender issues, such as the unfair division of labour, unequal access to resources, including health care and services, women’s powerlessness, low social worth and the inability to make decision about their own bodies.
The involvement of men in activities to combat HIV/AIDS and stop gender-based violence was relatively new, although men’s programmes now existed in several countries. The demand for male training and sensitization on issues of HIV/AIDS and related issues was growing, and men’s support, counselling and spiritual guidance groups were quickly emerging, especially at the community level. Without sensitization, awareness creation and mobilization, many men would not have the consciousness, awareness, knowledge, analytical skills, willingness and commitment to act in a timely and appropriate ways.
In several African countries, faith-based organizations had taken a lead in gender-equality initiatives, responding to the growing threat of HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, drug and substance abuse and indiscipline in learning institutions at all levels. Men working in the media were among those who were active and had a commitment to action for gender equality. Their profession put them in the frontline of exposure to the realities of the evils of gender-based violence and the suffering of victims of HIV/AIDS.
BERTIL LINDBLAD, Deputy Director, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that the global AIDS epidemic was both a global challenge and opportunity when it came to working towards gender equality. There was a shared responsibility between men and women alike to combat the epidemic. It was recognized that more women and girls become infected globally each year. Gender inequality fuelled the rate of HIV infection. Also, most discussions of the gender dimensions of HIV/AIDS had neglected to discuss the vulnerabilities of men and boys and the specific circumstances which made them vulnerable -- which, in turn, increased the vulnerability of women and girls.
It was critical, he noted, to gear programmes towards men, women, girls and boys alike. It was necessary to look at the role men and boys could play in response to the epidemic. That was among the issues discussed at the expert group meeting held in Brazil. Among other things, it was necessary to adjust existing programmes in health and HIV/AIDS. On the role of the media, he noted that at a media executives’ meeting at Headquarters in January, those executives had taken it on themselves to devote airtime and corporate responsibility for HIV/AIDS. In the area of education, curricula and teacher training must reflect gender relations and the impact of the epidemic, as well as the means for protection. There was a large percentage of young people around the world today who did not know how to prevent the spread of HIV. Other areas in which to reach men and boys included the workplace and the military.
Questions and Comments
One delegate said that child care had given men the opportunity to develop different roles, which would hopefully prepare the ground for new and more equal roles for boys and girls. Norway’s representative said that her country had succeeded in changing female patterns in education, with women now making up 60 per cent of those who progressed to higher education, although their employment had largely remained in the public sectors of care and education. She stressed that men’s cooperation was vital in achieving gender equality, and it was also important to emphasize what men could gain from greater equality.
Another delegate noted that culture defined the roles of boys and girls, as well as their views and attitudes. Change must begin in the family at an early age, she said, with parents setting examples that avoided gender stereotyping. Gender perspectives should also be introduced into schools, and educational materials developed to reflect gender.
A representative of the non-governmental organization, the Women’s National Commissions of the United Kingdom, said men and boys must be made aware that irresponsible sexual behaviour had made the HIV/AIDS pandemic reach such tragic proportions. The significance of gender equality and training from early education must be emphasized, so that boys and girls progressed into adult life free from sex-stereotyped attitudes that resulted in wasted ability, a lack of economic and social well-being or inferiority feelings. The role of men in empowering women, changing work patterns, ensuring secondary and tertiary education for girls, supporting women through work-based training, encouraging female colleagues and providing support in child care could make a huge difference in the work place.
Responding to those comments, Mr. CONNELL said men often were not involved in child-raising due to the higher wages men often commanded in the work place. Regarding gender content in education, he said such content should be an aspect of the whole mainstream curriculum. Technical education, for example, which was not always equally accessible to both sexes, produced economic disparities in later life.
Ms. WAINAINA said the need for gender sensitization and education was overwhelming, and beyond the resources of one organization. Gender should be mainstreamed in all activities, so that gender sensitivity in organizations could become the norm. Gender sensitivity should become a criterion for measuring and rewarding performance.
Mr. LINDBLAD stressed the need to prevent HIV infection in girls and women, reduce violence against women, protect inheritance rights for women, increase access to treatment, and support improved community-based care.
During the second round of questions and comments, it was agreed by several speakers that gender equality was the responsibility of everyone. Iran’s representative stressed how important it was for all actors in society, including governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations, to develop national policies and implement programmes to change stereotypical attitudes. The empowerment of women required the modification of men’s attitudes. Another representative added that unless men and boys stood by the side of women and girls, no progress could be made.
Gender equality, said one speaker, was a matter of human rights, and not just a women’s issue. The question was how to go about engaging men and boys to make them agents of change.
Regarding the trafficking and exploitation of women, a non-governmental organization representative asked what was being offered to United Nations and peacekeeping personnel on the issues of gender equality and trafficking. Also, what mechanisms were in place to monitor how much time was spent on those issues?
As to how to guarantee that when men and boys became involved in gender programmes that they would have a commitment to gender equality, Mr. CONNELL said he doubted there could be a total guarantee. There was a better chance of success when both men and women were included in the design and management of programmes geared towards men and boys. On the role of leadership, he noted that changes towards gender equality were most likely when men in leadership made a public commitment to gender equality as a priority and followed through with personal involvement.
Mr. LINDBLAD added that leadership had proven to be a key factor in reversing the HIV infection rate. On trafficking and exploitation, there was collaboration between UNAIDS and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to develop a training package on HIV/AIDS awareness, which was linked to the code of conduct for United Nations and peacekeeping personnel.
Ms. WAINAINA noted that the issue of power was one that came up when working with men. It was important to remember that power was not a commodity that could be diminished when shared; it multiplied the more it was shared.
During the third round of comments, delegates noted that men had become more involved in domestic work, especially when women were working outside the home. They also noted that opening up society had helped to enhance the image of women, which had made the struggle against negative stereotypes more effective.
They also stressed that both men and women, girls and boys, must understand the concept of equality to ensure development. Gender inequality was a social, economic and cultural barrier with long-term implications that would impede the development of nations, and must be overcome. They also emphasized that both direct and indirect measures were needed to allow men to participate in achieving gender equality, but emphasized that scarce resources should not be diverted from efforts to empower women to educating men and boys.
Responding to those comments, Mr. CONNELL warned that education was broadly affected by social norms, and there were limits to how far it could go independently. Educational reform must go along with that in other areas. He agreed that the involvement of men and boys in gender equality must not jeopardize funding for the empowerment of women, but must be found in other mainstream areas.
Mr. LYRA said men themselves must want to be involved in the gender-equality experience. They must not feel obligated to become involved, but become sensitized through other means, such as the desire to uphold human rights.
As the Commission proceeded to a fourth round of dialogue, it was stressed that gender equality was a shared responsibility between men and women. Gender equality was not a female enterprise, noted one representative. It demanded that men share power with women. Likewise, it was imperative for women to embrace male participation in the discourse on gender equality. Women and men needed to work together in partnership to achieve gender equality, stated another speaker. It was necessary to create a new partnership based on mutual respect, ongoing dialogue and shared responsibilities.
The importance of education and awareness-raising was also emphasized by several speakers. Education, said one speaker, was fundamental to promoting equality at all stages of life.
Mr. CONNELL noted that building the issue of men and boys into every aspect of gender policy, while theoretically possible, was not practically feasible due to limited resources. It was important to focus on those issues which stood a good chance of progress, such as on addressing misogynist images of women.
The issue of trafficking, said Ms. WAINAINA, needed to be publicized more, in order to take more effective action to address it.
On promoting behavioural change, Mr. LINDBLAD said that could be done through life skills programmes in both the formal school setting and outside, on such issues as HIV/AIDS prevention. It could also be furthered through awareness campaigns, including through music television and through Web sites, where online discussions could take place.
* *** *
* Press Release WOM/1435 dated 1 March should include 2nd & 3rd Meetings.