“No matter what women do, you are going to get people who don’t like it, & the more powerful you are, they more they don’t like it. Be resilient, and remember to fight for what we believe in because we’re worth it.”
Friday opened with a discussion titled “Women’s Rights as Human Rights,” with Hina Jilani, director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College Kathryn Kolbert, Dorothy Harbeck, a judge of immigration laws and a Wellesley alumna, and Meryl Frank, Former Ambassador for the UN for US Affairs of Women and former mayor. Jilani began the conversation, telling delegates about honor crimes in Pakistan and how persecution of honor codes has changed. In the Pakistani law system, murder was a compoundable offense, which gave families to opportunity to forgive and compromise—and often causing families to be threatened or bribed off.
Kolbert, who has previously worked as a lawyer with domestic violence cases, described the changes domestic violence laws. Even in the past ten years, women had to have a witness—an impossible task when violence often happened privately– and often when police were called, asked the batterer to take a walk or cool off. In addition, women had to file a report in person for a private criminal action. “When you file a private criminal action, doesn’t have the same enforcement,” Harbeck also explained. “Now, if the crime is committed, even if the woman says ‘no’ the judge is required to still look at evidence, and determine if there’s enough evidence to go through.”
(Meryl Frank tells delegates about her experiences running for mayor)
Harbeck also described the impact sharing stories has. Previously FGM appeared as a cultural tradition, something the US doesn’t understand and couldn’t enforce on US citizens. Now, after hearing stories of women involved in the process, law-makers are able to realize FGM is violence against women. “Without hearing those voices, people say well that’s what they do. That’s their country.”
Meryl Frank told delegates of her experiences running for mayor after being a stay-at-home for 12 years. While running, she experienced political violence she chose not to report. “Women often don’t report violence because they don’t want to seem weak.” When she told her story to women of other countries while working as an ambassador, she said many had an experience like hers, threatened or a victim of violence.
Friday ended with a lecture by Jeni Klugman, the director of Gender and Development at the World Bank. While there has been tremendous progress, Klugman opened with some unbelievable facts about gender in the developing world–
- 61% of women in Ethiopia believe its okay to be beaten for burning dinner
- For every one woman that dies in Sweden in childbirth, 1,000 die in Afghanistan
And also some positive:
- In Sierra Leone, one extra year of school for girls decreases contraception use by 12%, HIV reduced by about the same, and attitudes of domestic violence change as well
The Gender Equality and Development Report, published yearly, works to look at multidimensional levels of gender equality, including both the positive and negative changes. This years report highlighted the increase in life expectancy of women and the increase of educational enrollment. However, the report also showed that there is still excessive deaths of females and barriers to economic opportunities. Of the 3.9 “missing girls,”
- 2/5 are never born
- 1/6 die in early childhood
- 1/3 die in reproductive years
Klugman pushed delegates, many of whom live in countries mentioned in the report, to pressure their governments to work on these issues.