Twenty-five years after declaring “women’s rights are human rights,” there’s still much to do

Professor Ved Nanda, Rotary Club of Denver

The unprecedented global attention necessary to combat the relentless coronavirus pandemic has for now pushed aside the ambitious plans by women’s rights advocates to focus on “a truly transformative agenda on gender equality and girls’ and women’s rights” in 2020, a “milestone year,” to accelerate action for its realization.

One hundred years after the first International Women’s Day was held, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the landmark declaration that “women’s rights are human rights,” at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, which raised the clarion call for gender equality. The representatives of 189 countries attending the conference committed to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action — a visionary blueprint calling for the empowerment of women and presenting a comprehensive plan for action.

A major international development to further the realization of women’s rights was the adoption in October 2015 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which included among its goals the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. Targets to measure the goal’s progress include discrimination, violence against women and girls, harmful practices, unpaid care work, lack of participation in decision-making, and inadequate sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

Notwithstanding the repeated reaffirmation of the Beijing commitments by governments unilaterally as well as at the United Nations and regional forums, a reality check demonstrates that the Beijing Agenda remains unfulfilled. The progress is uneven, ad hoc, slow, and, on certain issues, superficial. Fundamental protections are often lacking and not even a single country in the world has realized the goal of gender equality.

What is the current status? Despite the great strides in the fight for gender equality, including gains in girls’ education, legal reforms to address domestic violence, removing discriminatory laws, and impressive gains for individual women in many countries, gaps remain. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres reported last year, based on data from more than 100 countries, that 18% of women and girls had experienced physical and/or sexual partner violence in the previous 12 months. Reporting on progress toward gender equality, he said: “Gender equality continues to hold women back and deprives them of basic rights and opportunities. Empowering women requires addressing structural issues such as unfair social norms and attitudes, and progressive legal frameworks that put men and women at the same level.”

Data from 90 countries shows that women spend roughly three times more hours per day doing unpaid care and domestic work than men. Millions of girls and women have been subjected to the practice of female genital mutilation, and 32 million girls are still not in school. The role of women in peace and security negotiations is almost non-existent. To illustrate, women’s participation is not clear in the proposed peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

In addition to discrimination in law and practice, gender-based violence, and harmful gender norms and inequality, institutional barriers remain to equal participation in society. Laws, regulations, and workplace policies force women out when they become pregnant or keep them from returning to work after childbirth, resulting in persistent disparities in women’s income and economic security. Deep-rooted power imbalances due to social, political, and cultural barriers remain a grim reality. Poor sexual and reproductive health information and services lead to high rates of disease and death worldwide for women and girls. A recent U.N. report found 91% of men and 86% of women show some gender bias against women. And a World Bank report says that women have only three-quarters of the employment rights enjoyed by men, while men still control three-quarters of parliamentary seats worldwide.

In the U.S., as of March 2020, women still make 81 cents overall for every dollar earned by men, according to PayScale, a company that collects data on wages.

The World Economic Forum, which annually surveyed the global gender gap for 14 year, reports that it will be a century before women the world over enjoy equal rights with men.

Measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic, such as school closures, quarantine measures, stay-at home, and lockdowns, are further likely to disproportionately impact women, as they generally assume responsibility for care. Domestic violence rates may increase. Migrant domestic helpers are being adversely affected, with little opportunity for assistance. And another wild card likely to impact women disproportionately is climate change, as families will be displaced.

Last month the U.N. Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, warned of a risk of setbacks to women’s rights as they are being threatened and attacked. Similar concern was recently expressed by the secretary-general.

Common sense and also evidence-based actions to advance girls’ and women’s rights and close the equality gap include the following: countries should adopt policies and enact laws to proactively advance gender equality and equal representation and participation of women in all spheres; countries should repeal discriminatory family laws — marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody, and guardianship; governments should outlaw and eliminate domestic violence and harmful practices such as child marriage; countries should directly invest in women and girls and in support of organizations that are working to change legal, social, and political systems to expedite progress; and governments should protect women’s human rights defenders.

The current situation should not be allowed to derail the focus on achieving gender equality.

Ved Nanda is Distinguished University Professor and director of the Ved Nanda Center for International Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His column appears the last Sunday of each month and he welcomes comments at vnanda@law.du.edu.

 

World needs a more inclusive, just society. But will that be result of coronavirus pandemic?

Professor Ved Nanda, Rotary Club of Denver

Leaders are aptly occupied today with the critical questions, when and how to lift which restrictions to reopen the economy? And how should they strike the balance between two equally important priorities: ensuring health and safety and restoring the economy?

Beyond considering these essential concerns, futurists, thinkers, and some politicians are losing sleep over the long-term ripple effects of this deadly pandemic. “What will the clichéd ‘new normal’ look like within nations and globally?” they ask. Focusing on the global scenario, will the US-led global order that we have known since post-World War II – based on democracy, free markets, human rights, and the rule of law – survive?

How will the currently interconnected and interdependent world fare? Pointing to globalization’s fueling of financial crises, spurring  deregulation, deemphasizing national sovereignty, and furthering the divide between the rich and the poor, critics ask, “Is this the end of globalization?”

One commentator has explained the options: Will the results follow the outcome of World War I or of World War II? Weak institutions were formed after 1918, leading to protectionism, nationalism, and economic depression. But after 1945, cooperation and internationalism gave birth to the Marshall Plan, Bretton Woods, the United Nations, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the IMF, and the World Bank. Optimists will argue that globalization, multilateralism, and international cooperation will certainly prevail to address global challenges: witness the current collective medical and scientific efforts to combat COVID-19.

And countries will still be involved in international trade – goods, services, and capital will cross borders and people will travel abroad. Pessimists contend that nationalism certainly has been on the rise. All BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are fiercely nationalistic.Current trends show that feeling the sting of unreliable and vulnerable supply chains and driven by the need for self-reliance and self-sufficiency to effectively combat a future pandemic, the outcome could be reinforced nationalism, isolationism, and authoritarianism.

International institutions have played little role in meeting the current crisis. The World Health Organization, underfunded for decades, is being criticized for its allegedly inadequate response to the coronavirus (WHO’s director was hesitant to declare an international emergency).

The International Monetary Fund is also seen as ineffective. The only United Nations body that under its charter can take action in response to global dangers is the Security Council, which has been eerily silent. Regional institutions in Asia and Africa are now filling the needs of those areas. Obviously, the future is uncertain, and both positive and negative scenarios are getting lots of airtime. What’s most likely to happen on the economic front is that this pandemic could push half a billion people into poverty. Coronavirus will be used as an excuse by rich countries to further decrease their development aid to poor countries most urgently in need.

The major deficiencies in our current system of overreliance on markets and profits is leading the states to expand their authorities and become stronger, taking control over healthcare and labor issues. For example, the Spanish government has nationalized hospitals, France is even considering nationalizing large businesses, Denmark is providing income to people for not going to work, and several states are making housing freely available.

Most observers have lamented the lack of American leadership in these difficult times. Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt is not alone in noting that “the White House has trumpeted ‘America First’ and ‘Everyone Alone’ for years,” and the U.S. has walked away from its globalleadership. In fact, it has revoked international treaties, rejected international obligations and cooperation, built walls, and imposed anti-immigration policies. China is filling the vacuum, but also acted irresponsibly.

In the end, the need is to create a more inclusive and just society and a system based on international cooperation to solve global problems. The U.S. leadership, now absent, is key to making it happen.

Ved Nanda is Distinguished University Professor and director of the Ved Nanda Center for International Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His column appears the last Sunday of each month and he welcomes comments at vnanda@law.du.edu.

 

Rotary International COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Dear Rotarians,

In every corner of the world, it seems that not a single person or community is unaffected by COVID-19. You may be wondering how to stay focused on our work eradicating polio when we are dealing with a pandemic caused by a virus for which there is not yet a vaccine — a situation similar to what the world faced with the poliovirus not so long ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic response requires worldwide solidarity and an urgent global effort. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), with thousands of polio workers and an extensive laboratory and surveillance network, has a moral imperative to ensure that these resources are used to support countries in their preparedness and response.

We can be proud that in the ever-connected world of global health, the polio infrastructure that Rotarians have helped build is already being used to address — and stop the spread of — the new coronavirus, in addition to serving countless other health needs. In Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, where polio personnel and assets have a significant presence, workers from all GPEI partners are engaged in surveillance, health worker training, contact tracing, and more. In 13 countries, polio volunteers have been deployed to address COVID-19 preparations and response.

We recognize that the COVID-19 emergency means that some aspects of the polio eradication program will be affected. While addressing the new challenges of today, the most important thing that Rotary members can do to continue the fight to end polio is to sustain our commitment. We are aiming to reach our fundraising goal of $50 million this year so we can work to safely reach all children with the polio vaccine. In the midst of a global pandemic, we understand that attention to polio eradication will be diverted, and this makes it all the more vital for Rotarians to remain strongly committed to fighting polio and not let our progress be eroded.

It is imperative that we remain committed to our work eradicating polio. Learn more about how our work fighting polio is supporting the COVID-19 response and consider making a contribution to PolioPlus.

Kindest regards,

Mark Daniel Maloney
2019-2020 President, Rotary International
Gary C.K. Huang
2019-2020 Chair, The Rotary Foundation

DMHR: Champion for a District Grant to Provide BrainWise Training for Denver Kids’ Counselors

Denver Kids is a jewel in Rotary’s community programs.  Rotary Club 31 of Denver helped found Denver Kids after World War II to help at-risk youth in third through 12th grade graduate from high school.  Club 31 Rotarians continue to serve on the organization’s Board of Directors and help fund operations that include twenty full-time counselors.  Rotarians also recruit volunteer mentors who work one-on-one with students from third grade through high school, provide YRYLA and RYLA scholarships and offer numerous educational, career, and recreational activities.

Last year, Denver Kids served more than 900 students in 160 schools who participate for an average of seven years.  The children are recommended by school counselors and may qualify for free reduced lunches and in addition to family, social, educational, and behavioral health challenges.  This combination of strikes belies the 83 percent graduate rate Denver Kids achieve compared with the 65 percent rate of DPS students.  These successful outcomes are a hallmark of Denver Kids.

In 2018, following a training for their counselors in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Denver Kids’ administrators sought a curriculum they could use with students and families.  After a review of programs, they selected BrainWise, unaware that the curriculum had been developed by DMHR Rotarian Pat Gorman Barry.  Neither did they know that BrainWise was being taught in Denver, Jefferson County, Weld County, and Aurora public schools, as well as in Rotary projects at Eagleton Elementary and CEC.

This connection opened an opportunity to seek a District Grant that would cover the training expenses.  In addition, the project would make a wider range of Rotarians aware of mentoring opportunities with Denver Kids.  Denver Mile High Rotary members Tom Cella and Diane Messamore stepped up to be co-champions of the District Grant with Club 31, Denver SouthEast and Castle Pines Rotary as partners.  The grant was approved and Denver Kids’ counselors and administrators were trained in BrainWise in January, 2019.

The recent merger of Denver Kids and Denver Urban Scholars will provide additional opportunities for DPS students to learn SEL and the executive function skills needed to make positive life choices and decisions – with Rotarians and other volunteers serving as mentors.

Doug McLemore Concert: Classical Meets Jazz

You are invited for an unforgettable evening of elegant, classical music and swingin’ jazz at the University Club.  “Classical Meets Jazz” led by Rotarian Doug McLemore.  The quartet will be performing “Suite for flute and Jazz Piano Trio #1” a legendary crossover composition by composer Claude Bolling which was on the Billboard Top 40 for 10 years.  Added guest soloist as a preview of the another Bolling Suite.

CLASSICAL MEETS JAZZ: A CONCERT IN TWO PARTS

Part 1: Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio #2 NEW CONCERT
(A Suite in 8 Movements)

Part 2: Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio, originally performed
by Claude Bolling (Piano) and Jean Pierre Rampal (Flute)

Cocktails will be served at 6:30 PM, three course dinner at 7:00 PM followed by the performance 8:00 PM!  Reserve your tickets with the UClub’s front desk today. 303-861-4267.  frontdesk@uclubdenver.org.