The news on violence against women, women and poverty, maternal mortality, and gender gaps in education can be disheartening. Prospects for the equality and empowerment of women and the protection of their human rights can seem further away than ever. That's why it's necessary to pause occasionally to assess where we've been and to strategize on how to build the necessary political will for future action.
During UN Week, I participated in a conference on “The Protection of Women’s Rights” sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute of New York.
It was an energizing gathering, reflecting both serious challenges and exciting possibilities ahead in making the phrase “women’s rights are human rights” a reality, not just an inspiring slogan.
The meeting, co-sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Equal Opportunities, the Permanent Mission to the United Nations, and the Consulate General in New York, was also aimed at highlighting the contributions of Italians and Italian-Americans to women’s rights internationally.
Held the same week as the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals , a 10 year review of the mixed progress toward ending poverty by 2015, the event brought together a diverse group of participants. The leading diplomats, judges, scholars, advocates, and political leaders there discussed a wide range of issues and empowerment strategies. Rachel N. Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the UN on Gender Issues (photo, left) was among the distinguished speakers.
As IntLawGrrls Stephanie Farrior and Fiona de Londras discussed here, there has been increasing international focus on the status of women, but further progress remains to be seen. The UN has just launched an Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and appointed former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to head the new body.
Several themes surfaced in the presentations:
►Women’s Access to Power (political, economic, and social), including Vice-President of the Italian Senate Emma Bonino’s stirring call for women to exercise their own agency on this front)) (photo, right);
►Women’s Access to Justice (including informative talks by Flavia Lattanzi, Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (photo, below left), and Antonio Baldassarre, President Emeritus of the Constitutional Court of Italy);
►Violence Against Women and Traditional Practices (several representatives from sponsors of a High-Level Meeting on the International Campaign for a UN General Assembly Resolution Banning FGM held earlier in the week attended the conference): (See IntLawGrrls posts on FGM here and my entry on “Female Genital Mutilation and Female Genital Cutting” in 2 Encyclopedia of Human Rights 200-213, David P. Forsythe, et al, eds., Oxford University Press (2009) here);
►Transnational Migration and the Global Economy (including talks on the daunting challenges facing women refugees and asylum-seekers by Susan Akram, Clinical Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law, and on the economic, social, and cultural rights of migrant domestic workers by yours truly, IntLawGrrl Hope Lewis);
►The “Locations” of Women’s Rights (including a thought-provoking presentation by Suzanne Goldberg, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Center for Gender and Sexuality, Columbia University School of Law, on the implications of the varied identities of women and the different positions from which they speak);
►Women and Peace (including a review and critical analysis of developments since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (Women, Peace, and Security) by Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Research Affiliate, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology);
►Regional Approaches to Women’s Rights (including encouraging presentations by Inter-American Human Rights Commissioner Dinah Shelton, Manatt/Ahn Professor of International Law, George Washington University School of Law, and on other regional systems by Angela del Vecchio, Director of the Master in L.A.W.S. (Legal Advanced World Studies), Luiss Guido Carli University Professor, Law Faculty, LUISS University, Rome (delivered by transboundary water issues expert Mara Tignino, Ph.D., Senior Researcher, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva, in her absence).
The Full Program
Welcome and Introduction
Riccardo Viale, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute, New York
Mara Carfagna, Minister for Equal Opportunities of Italy
Chair: Antonio Baldassarre, President emeritus of the Constitutional Court of Italy
Emma Bonino, Vice-president of the Senate of Italy, cofounder of No Peace Without Justice, "A worldwide ban on female genital mutilation: ending a violation of the human rights of women and girls"
Flavia Lattanzi, Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, “Women`s rights in international criminal tribunals”
Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Massachussetts Institute of Technology, “UNSC Resolution No. 1325 on women, peace and
Suzanne Goldberg, Columbia University, “Women’s rights: issues for the next decades”
Susan Akram, Boston University School of Law, “The failure of protection of women and girls under the international refugee regime”
Chair: Suzanne Goldberg, Columbia University
Antonio Baldassarre, President emeritus of the Constitutional Court of Italy, "Constitution and Gender"
Hope Lewis, Professor of Law, Northeastern University, Boston, "Economic, social and cultural aspects of women's rights protection”
Rachel N. Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the UN on Gender Issues, “Safeguarding women’s rights: the United Nations role – past, present and future”
Dinah Shelton, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Manatt/Ahn Professor of International Law, George Washington University,"Protection of women's rights and the interamerican commission on human
Angela del Vecchio, LUISS University, Rome,"The protection of women in the international regional conventions on human rights” (delivered by Mara Tignino, Senior Researcher, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva)
Federiga Bindi, Italian National School of Public Administration, Rome, “Women leadership training as a way to fill the gender gap”
Franco Frattini, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy,
Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to the Italian Cultural Institute, its staff, and interns for hosting such a substantive meeting on the advancement of women and girls.