This post is part of a series on the 54th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Click on a link to read further.
At todays briefing session our Minister remembered my name (cool!) and then looked me in the eye and said the following: “I was just in a bi-lateral session with Israel, it’s where we share practices, and Israel said that they’ve increased women’s access to education and their birthrate is rising too! They have such strong family values there that they don’t need a National Daycare plan! Wouldn’t it be great to figure out how they’re doing that?”
She then went and told a number of other people the same thing (individually).
This left me really torn. I’m going to go on about the events of the day following this short moment where I try to figure out what to do with what was said.
First of all, we need more female politicians. I know that people will say “you can’t just have any woman in there! If she doesn’t hold feminist values then she’s just a man in a dress” or something of the sort. On thisposition I feel (personally) that I’m not qualified to determine what women “count” and what women don’t. I think it’s too easy to support the over representation of men in publicly elected offices because they are already there, and we aren’t splitting hairs over their ideology to the same extent that we vehemently tear our sisters apart.
HOWEVER, I know that the Government was only very recently (slightly) capable of getting any child support at all out of my baby daddies, and now somehow we’ll convince them to babysit? They aren’t paying the bills, love ain’t paying my bills, JOB*S* are paying my bills. In order to work I need childcare.
Further more, if my mom retired from her job tomorrow and decided to provide childcare for free (she already babysits for free… what I mean is if it were her main activity) is it fair for me to expect that my mother be a full-time caregiver without any financial compensation?
This government expects us to be happy with the hundred bucks a month BS. Daycare where I come from is 650$/month (for a potty trained full-time spot) A hundred bucks is a night out at the movies. It isn’t enough, and we’re supposed to celebrate that the Government has invested 250 million into childcare?
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 650 mil that was there before?!?!?!
(figures from the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada)
So the whole debriefing session left me conflicted because I am not happy with her attitude on daycare, and I am not happy with the ideology of the Conservative Party, but at the end of the day, I’m reluctant to tear her to pieces, to really criticize her because she is a woman.
Maybe cynical misogynists or a pedestal feminists can cry foul, or tokenism, or believe that this attitude undermines women’s true participation in politics. I just need to remember for myself and for other people that we are all human, and we are doing the best we can with what we have. I’m sure she represents *a* demographic of women. She probably represents that demographic better than I could. It’s just not *MY* demographic… or even a demographic I would choose to hang out with even if I was really lonely…
Nevertheless. I want Daycare. I want that 650 million back, Yo!
So on to the rest of the stuff around the debriefing, and the rest of the day.
Today was the first day of the United Nations 54th Commission on the Status of Women. The official delegations generally have debriefing sessions once a day to let civil society participants from their respective Countries know what is happening in Session.
Canada’s Debriefing was held in a crowded hallway outside the conference hall rooms and where the wireless internet access is. So it was incredibly noisy and we moved three different times.
Minister Guergis was late because she was in the bilateral session with Israel, and Nanci-Jean Laugh of the Status of Women tried to introduce us to the whole official delegation but I couldn’t hear very well because of the noise. I know there is a guy named Mike McCullough from foreign affairs, there was a woman from the Native Women’s Association of Canada, there was a woman named Suzanne, and that’s about all I got.
Nanci let us know that Minister Guergis is going to be making some “interventions” tomorrow, and that because the UN is under construction the space is really limited and that it won’t be likely that anyone who isn’t in the official delegation can attend.
I was introduced in passing to a young woman who works for the Government of Nunavut, but I didn’t get the sense that she was on the official delegation, and there was also someone there from the Yukon Government.
Tomorrow the debriefings will resume at their regular place “Under The Stairs” it will be quieter and I’ll try to get names and twitpics for the Northern bloggers and tweeters.
(BTW: the public bathrooms in the UN, especially the ones outside the area where you need a pass to get in are the grosses bathrooms I’ve seen with leaking peeling ceilings, stench of urine and wet floors. Worse than the Gold Range Bar or the Center Square Mall<-Yellowknife’s grossest bathrooms) for reals.
I also attended parallel NGO sessions at the Church Building across the street from the UN. I was looking for a session called “Social Media to Social Action” but the session disappeared and no one even bothered to tweet a warning!
I ended up in a session about violence against women and heard speakers from Finland, Jordan, the person who oversees such things forthe whole continent of Africa and the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women.
Each of the speakers were incredibly interesting. I especially liked a point that Finland made about alcohol and drug awareness campaigns. She used an example of a widely used poster warning youth about the risks of alcohol abuse. Included in the risks of abusing alcohol was “being raped or sexually assaulted,” and then she showed us statistics of men who have raped and/or sexually assaulted people. 64% reported being under the influence of alcohol at the time of attack. So why doesn’t education on substance abuse highlight the risk of committing such acts?
The Rapporteur gave us an overview of her position and how it can beused. She said that although her meetings and visits are usually with governments, that she receives complaints from victims and civil society. So victims of violence can lodge human rights complaints against their countries and she can investigate them (kind of.) She said that in order to enter a country she has to have an invitation, BUT that if she receives a complaint against a country they send a letter to the country alerting them to the complaint and then they have a year to respond to it.
She said that all countries need to adhere to due diligence on this issue. She said that every country has an obligation to do public awareness on violence against women, and that they need to promote *ENDING* that violence. She said that all countries have a duty to put effort into preventing violence against women, and that all countries have a duty to punish offenders and provide a level of redress for victims.
That part kind of made me wonder how the NWT is doing. We don’t have police in all of our communities so is the Government fulfilling its responsibility to prevent violence against women? Then I thought about the judge that gave the 20 year old who molested his 16 year old cousin while she was passed out a day in jail. The Defense Lawyer was quoted by the newspaper as saying “it’s a mistake young people make.” Are we fulfilling the obligation to provide justice to the victim?
Also today I met a woman named Meara (pronounced the same way I pronounce my name) who is here from Canada with a student that was doing work in Yellowknife during the summer. And I met a very cool woman named Ishtar who works for the 1 in 9 campaign out of South Africa. I’m thinking of tracking her down tomorrow to do a bit of an interview with her because she seemed like an activist Soul Mate. I got the same feeling when I met Amanda Reaume who is completely amazing. (not *just* cause she lets me contribute to her blog!)
you can visit the organizations website here:
if you are interested in other ways to follow the UNCSW 54 the Canadian Teachers Federation is being incredibly organized and tweeting andvlogging all kinds of awesome. you can follow them on twitter atCanTeachersFed or on Ustream at:
Also, FAFIA held a very successful reception tonight. The women’s issues critics from the Bloc Quebecois, the NDP and the Liberal Party all showed up… though they were quick to ask quite loudly where Minister Guergis was. everyone had wine, cheese and fruit and were able to have passionate conversations about feminism. There was a variety of ages represented so there was a good amount of intergenerational discussion happening.
I was able to catch up with Anita Neville, the official critic for the Liberal Party. She was a School Board trustee for many years before she was elected as an MP. She remembered that I had run and showed a lot of interest. We talked about School Trusteeship, and the comments mad by the Minister during the debriefing. It was really nice to see her. She came to the Center for Northern Families and talked to a crowd about the ins and outs of being a woman in federal politics.
At any rate, I think I should end on that note. It’s very late and it will be an early morning. There is a lot that happens at the UNCSWs. Tomorrow will be just as busy and will finish with an official Canadian reception at the UN which will highlight the up and coming Womens Worlds Conference to be held in Ottawa 2011.
Good night and sleep tight everyone!