May-Helen Molvaer Grimstad spoke of having a baby while she was in the Norwegian Parliament. Norway grants one year of paid parental leave. At least 10 weeks of this is to be taken by the father. She spoke of the value of men bonding with small children, an enriching experience for both. Children see how their parents relate and have models. This is a different approach than the United States, one of only four countries which does not have national laws requiring paid time off for parents after arrival of a baby.
“The greatest strength does not come from having drones, it comes from girls with school books,” she said. Molvaer Grimstad was one of the speakers at the Istanbul Summit: Women’s Perspective on UN Post-2015 Development Agenda in early June.
On the eve of the new millennium, people of goodwill organized by the United Nations set goals for a better future for the “global family.” As we approach 2015, where are we in relation to those Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? How can we contribute to the UN Post-2015 Development Goals and create awareness in each of our communities that what we do locally is important for the whole?
- Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger
- Achieving Universal Primary Education
- Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women
- Reducing Child Mortality; Improving Maternal Health
- Combatting HIV/Aids, Malaria and Other Diseases
- Ensuring Environmental Sustainability
- Global Partnership for Development
The goals had specific numerical criteria for progress to be made by 2015, such as halving the proportion of people with an income of less than $1 a day between 1990 and 2015, reducing by two-thirds the number of child deaths under the age of 5, and halving by 2015 the rate of population deprived of clean drinking water and basic hygiene needs.
According to Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the UN, the goals have been most helpful global strategy ever used for the reduction of poverty, but much still needs to be done.
Jessica Kimmel, professor of education, and myself, a professor of religious studies, both of the University of Incarnate Word, were among the 306 participants from 45 countries at the Istanbul Summit, which was initiated by the Women’s Platform and the Abant Platform of the Journalists and Writers Foundation based in Istanbul, Turkey. The Foundation holds a general consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council.
Women representatives of non-governmental organizations could express their contributions to the implementation of the MDG’s and make suggestions in the presence of prominent UN representatives and women parliamentarians from various countries. The gathering was also a follow-up to the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2014, known as “Challenges and Achievements in the Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls,” where Kimmel had been a representative from the World Council of Curriculum and Instruction. She serves on the WCCI Board of Directors and spoke about their work at the Istanbul Summit.
UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay, an attorney from South Africa, encouraged the Summit’s work. She explained that while the MDG’s promoted progress, they were too narrow in 2000 and did not include women enough. She elaborated that we need freedom from want, freedom from fear, and from discrimination. Women need to design and implement the new agenda. The heartbeat must be accountability: track what is happening such as unfair wages. Women’s rights are Human rights; call on the countries of the world to meet their human rights obligations.
The Summit opening was set to coincide with the Peace Project Grant Awards ceremony. The Izmir Intercultural Dialogue Center shared music from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions, creating an atmosphere of peace for the opening. Among the grants awarded was one to the production a film about men in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are breaking the cycle of domestic violence. Another grant was awarded to an organization helping Hebrew and Arab children studying the literature of “the other” to develop understanding.
“There is no big war in Crimea right now, and we should be grateful to the Tartar women,”said Emma Volodarskaya, the Chancellor of the Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages, during a session covering peace and good governance. “Tartar women took food to both the Ukrainian troops and to the Russian troops. The women said, ‘We are peaceful. We do not want you to starve. We want life.’ The women stood between the Russians and the Ukrainians. We need to have women. If we look for peacemakers, remember the brave Tarter women.”
Another goal underlined the significant role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and in peace-building. Kirk presented “Empowering Iraqi Young Women to Create a Better Future for Their Country.” Turkish people of the Hizmet Movement have founded schools in Iraq to help young people have hope, get skills, and build reconciliation and unity. In visits to Iraq, Kirk has questioned persons of different cultures, religions, classes, and economic backgrounds including Kurdish, Arabic, Turkmen, Syriani, and Armenian speaking people who are Sunni Muslim, Syrian Orthodox Christian, Shi’a Muslim, Chaldean Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, and Mandaean.
Chantel Line Carpentier, the UN Sustainable Development Goals Officer said, “All that we do is rooted in environmental issues.” Since the Rio+20 UN Conference which introduced the sustainability and development campaign “The Future We Want,” groups have been invited to contribute ideas to the open working groups to further sustainability. She encouraged all to be actively involved in the global conversation by uploading position papers or relevant materials.
“Empowering women is empowering humanity,” said Renate Bloem, UN representative from CIVICUS.“For Muslim women, it is not the religion, but the culture, that holds them back.”
On the CIVICUS website there are many toolkits for citizen action, including one for mainstreaming gender sensitivity into projects. CIVICUS initiated “Be The Change,” a campaign based on the sharing of positive citizen action. Anyone can share a story through video or photos of actions or campaigns that have led to positive social change and lessons or skills that have been learned. One can simply learn from reading or comment on the stories.
Shirley Randell, founding director of the Centre for Gender in Rwanda, explained that about one million people had been killed and 300,000 women raped in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, but recently, Rwanda had elected a 64 percent female parliament. The Centre for Gendre emphasized that “Going forward means going together.” One of projects for poverty reduction is making “Peace Baskets,” which Tutsi and Hutu women weave together to build solidarity with each other and to support their families.
People with a global consciousness are developing a global conscience. The problems can seem overwhelming, but as we think globally, we can have the satisfaction of acting locally, improving equality, literacy, distribution of resources, and the environment. Home is where it all starts.
*Featured/top stories: More than 300 people from 45 countries participated in the Istanbul Summit. Photo by Mehmet Oguz.