Without going into UN-speak and trilling off lots of initials for groups that I'm only just becoming familiar with, let me say that events at the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women this week and next is a welcome energy in our all too male-centered consciousness.
Non-governmental organizations -- okay, NGOs -- from all regions of the world attend. It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.
This year's main focus is on violence against women and, sadly, we know this comes in many forms from control of women's sexual reproductive rights, to inadequate care of pregnant women, to sexual trafficking of women and children and to prostitution.
The statistics are harrowing, the tales unforgivable; and yet, they are all out in the open of New York, to be hammered, provisioned and sent back to the world, with new ideas on how to fix. It will be much harder to ignore the issues when they have been brought so close to all of our lives through NGO's first hand experiences.
A panel today featured women who had been prostitutes. I will not say "worked as prostitutes" because they refuse to be identified with the '70s concept of sexual worker. It is not work. It is a way to make very little money when all other doors are closed. The stories varied, but always they shared the common thread of having no other emotional or physical support. Some had come from an abusive situation and related to their mother's passivity. Another, at 15, was homeless and fell under the spell of someone who offered her a way out. One woman can't have children because of the damage to her cervix from 10 years of being a prostitute.
Even in this poignant and angry program, there were moments of levity. One woman said it was the (I'll use my own interpretation here) religiosity of the precious all-important male orgasm that had to be rethought. That the need men think they have to have a sexual release from a woman is so great that the sick institution of exploitation and abuse has continued to serve this biological master.
But there's good news: The Nordic idea is to criminalize prostitution. But not arresting the women... only the johns. To turn the table on this power game and at the same time, educate men on how to appreciate women and learn to have consensual non-raping sex out of the market place... in intimacy. Because prostitution is rape for hire. It has survived in a market that sells body parts... but these parts come with souls and spirits and hearts that break at every trick. Does this mean another broken wing for Capitalism? Perhaps.
The Finnish delegation led a panel on birth. They have had an extremely good record being one of the first countries to support midwives. When the graph came up of the Western nations with highest rate of teenage pregnancy, guess who was on the top? Ok, easy one. The U.S.! Go team.
Finland has sexual education and teaches protection and doesn't teach shame about the body. The director, who funnily said he'd been interested in sex education ever since he was a teen, pointed out that the only time their excellent record of low birth mortality and little teenage pregnancy was when the economy fell apart, and the needed services to protect the above, were dropped. But as soon as the economy came back, so did high ratings due to education and services.
A young doctor from Mali spoke of the great need for medical support for young mothers, who are socially pushed to have children when they are young, but not given the medical support. One patient died because she had no prenatal and when she finally got to hospital, there was no blood supply for her. She was very, very young and the Dr. said she saw this once a day.
This week, a group I'm recently involved with, here we go IAWRT, International Association of Women in Radio and Television will sponsor a panel on women and ecology, showing a film made by four different women, around the globe and their own way of handling local environmental issues. Hands On: Climate - Women - Change, Women seeking solutions. One of the women, Jasmine Thomas of First Nation in Canada, Jasmine Thomas has witnessed the devastation from oil spills and leads an effort to prevent pipelines from being laid across her country.
These stories are alarming, yet thoroughly inspiring.
Through examples like of the women in this film and all the women from the four corners of our beautiful Mother Earth, we may still be able to make something of this planet, preserving its beauty and spreading justice where none had been.
Film event: Friday, March 14, 2014, at the Salvation Army Auditorium, 221 E 52nd Street in Manhattan, from 12:30pm to 2:00pm.