United African Organization

Editorial Nook: International Women’s Day

Women’s Empowerment

“Human rights are women’s rights – and women’s rights are human rights. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely – and the right to be heard”.  Hillary Rodham Clinton, an advocate for gender equality, emphasized this point during her historic 1995 speech at the Beijing’s women’s conference. Since then, we have made major strides in seeking justice and equality for women around the world.

The international community must continue to uphold this commitment to ensure that the rights and freedoms of women and girls remain protected and that violence against  women eliminated.

Today, March 8th 2013, marked International Women’s Day. There is much to celebrate in the global mission to promote gender equality and the advancement of women. The 2013 agenda for UN Women, an agency of the United Nations, has put emphasis on 1) elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls; and 2) the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS. Most recently, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 28, 2013. This symbolizes a crucial breakthrough in the quest for justice and ending violence against women.

Why is this a victory for women’s rights? Here are 5 reasons:

  1. New provisions will help Native American and Alaska Native women access justice.
  2. New provisions help immigrant women in the U.S.
  3. Nondiscrimination provisions help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) survivors of violence.
  4. Inclusion of the Trafficking Victims and Protection Act (TVPA).
  5. Reauthorization of VAWA will ensure that millions of survivors be able to access critical social programs and legal services to help end violence.

Throughout recent history, progress has been made in protecting the rights of women and girls. In 1979, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by the UN General Assembly generated the international pledge to end all forms of discrimination. Following CEDAW, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (PFA) of 1995 sought to accelerate the implementation of strategies for the advancement of women including enhancing participation in public and private decision-making. In 2000, the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security acknowledged the importance of increasing women’s role in decision-making in regard to conflict prevention and resolutions. The Millennium Development Goals, created in 2002, outlines ambitious action plans to eliminate gender disparity in all educational levels by 2015.

These documents listed above have guided international movements in transforming the status and rights of women. VAWA is a great victory for women’s rights in the U.S. To quote U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice in her address to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, “All women and girls have a fundamental right to live free from violence and fear”. Yet, 1 in 3 women are still victims to physical and/or psychological abuse, or are coerced into sex. Not only is creating laws vital to ending violence against women, but increasing accountability and enforcing these laws is essential. Empowering women and girls also includes acknowledging their reproductive rights and access to reproductive health services.

International Women’s Day is a catalyst to encourage dialogue surrounding women’s rights around the world; however, the discussion must continue throughout the year. Use today to reflect and celebrate past and future accomplishments that empower women around the world. It is our responsibility as a global community to stay committed to ending violence against women and protecting their freedoms. This requires comprehensive support services for victims, improved measures to prevent assault, justice for offenders and a common understanding and respect for the fundamental rights of women and girls by all community members.

We are moving in the right direction, but must keep the momentum going. It has become seemingly apparent that when women succeed, nations become safer, successful and more ethical. Let the voices of women and girls be heard. Remember, human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.

Written by: Coralie Noisette, UAO Intern
M.S. Candidate, International Public Service- DePaul University 

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