Today turned out to be my only day of opportunity to attend any of the NGO CSW/NY sessions. Therefore I didn't necessarily get to the sessions I was most interested in, but attended those that sounded the most interesting to me that were scheduled for today. I sat in on two sessions and both were strong in their own way. I ended up at Empowering through Recordation of Life's Milestones by Lawyers Without Borders. Lawyers Without Borders provide legal support to Rule of Law projects and initiatives in the human rights and global capacity building sectors. Todays session was introduced with a game LWOB developed. The session attendees broke into groups of several teams. The teams then played a sort of Monopoly style board game. This board game however, teaches the importance of records and proved to be a lively and I thought, effective workshop. Records that westerners often take for granted because we're automatically provided with them and therefore expect to get them. Records like birth certificates that formally prove you are who you are can be an integral part of certain rights. The board game offers a way of teaching people what their rights are and the role records play in those rights being granted. The exercise reminded me of a Kim Longinotto film entitled Sisters in Law. The documentary film takes place in Cameroon and tells the stories of various women seeking justice in the aftermath of such violations as rape, violence and child abuse. They come to be heard in court by the prosecutor Vera Ngassa and court president Beatrice Ntuba. All the judges really have are testimonials by the women and then contradictory statements from their perpetrators. Sometimes their perpetrators are their husbands. Records, even if recorded in journal form informally are important to prove who you are and without them, can limit an individual's basic rights to the extent that someone might not be able to divorce their spouse or inherit their spouses property if the male in the family dies or get a license for say, becoming a taxi driver. One example a a speaker at the LWOB event today illustrated is if a child has been sexually assaulted, the parent must prove the child is indeed a minor in order to pursue the maximum penalty against the rapist. Without a birth record of that child, that can't happen. A very good example of the importance of records. Being a film editor, I can certainly attest to the power of recordation in its various forms.
The second session I attend today was given by Women for Women International. WWI provides women survivors of war and other conflicts with resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency. The title of this afternoon's presentation was Join Me on the Bridge: A Call for Peace and Development. Lyric Thompson, the Policy Analyst for Women for Women International reviewed some of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals first constructed in 1995 at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. Ms. Thompson listed some accomplishments reached since 1995 but also highlighted the significant lack of strides made many of the MDG categories. The fact that we're only 5 short years away from the MDG due date to reach all these goals is disconcerting to say the least. Karen Richardson, Liaison, White House Office of Public Engagement showed up to talk about the administration's plans for Women's and Children's programs and commitment to reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in America as well as globally.
Ms. Thompson spouted off some pretty alarming percentages such as... "Today, Women perform 66% of the world's work and produce 50% of the food, but they only earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property... nearly 75% of casualties in recent conflicts have been women and children". And while this list of grim facts weren't directed to Ms. Richardson to answer to, she didn't provide real responses to most of the questions that were directed to her (in my opinion). She repeated herself a lot and what she said felt like general sort of political statements that don't really say or commit to anything. She did state that some questions weren't really under her umbrella per say, and she offered names of those who could answer certain questions, but I still got the feeling that she was resisting providing anything other than generic responses. This was the first time I've heard Ms. Richardson speak though so I could be way off.
The point of this session however seemed to be focused on how we might meet these MDGs. I did enjoy learning about Women for Women International and was impressed with Ms. Thompson and the work WWI is doing, even though I didn’t really come away with new insights on how NGO's can work with the administration and/or the United Nation to achieve peace and development so we can cross off the remainder of our MDG to-do-list.