Empowerment of Women

Side Events to the 58th UN Commission on the Status of Women

New York, USA - During the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women at the UN headquarters in New York in March 2014, the Universal Peace Federation joined with diplomats and other NGOs in organizing two side events at the UN, one launching a campaign opposing human trafficking (March 13) and the other urging the UN to consider women and the family as crucial drivers of social development (March 19).

Representatives of member states, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited NGOs from all regions of the world attended the March 10-21 meetings on the challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls. In addition, NGOs and diplomats organized side events to highlight issues for the commission's consideration.

Forum on “Say No to Exploitation of Humans for Profit”

A packed crowd sitting on the floor and standing in the back of UN Conference Room C heard experts discuss the seriousness of the slavery taking place in every corner of the world. The session opened with the reading of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's remarks for the event thanking the Mission of Burundi for taking up the cause of human trafficking.

The key organizer of this side event, Nelly Niyonzima, founder of The Connected Hearts and wife of the permanent representative of Burundi, presented the highlight of this event in launching the campaign "Say No to Exploitation of Humans for Profit." Some of the many new methods to spread awareness about human exploitation were shown, such as billboards and posters now on display in New York City, a moving video created to educate people about the reality of human trafficking, examples of the positive use of social media, and "Stop Trafficking" stickers, which were handed out to all the attendees to place in public places.

A panel of experts supported the launch of the campaign against human trafficking and reported on efforts around the world to stop the many forms of human slavery. The panel was moderated by Lynn Walsh, director of UPF’s Office of Marriage, Family and Human Development, representing UPF as key co-sponsor of the event.

Hon. Clotilde Niragira, the minister of national solidarity, human rights and gender in Burundi, reported on the many strong policies and programs her country is utilizing to combat human trafficking.

Hon. Jean Charles Moise, a senator of the Republic of Haiti, spoke about the plight of his country leaving many poor youth and women vulnerable to trafficking and slavery.

Yvonne Williams, founder of Trafficking in America, called everyone to confront the cultural causes of this inhumane and rapidly increasing money-making enterprise, such as the huge pornography industry, widespread acting out of unbridled sexual impulses of men, unethical use of the media, materialism and addictive consumption of some while poverty rages in other areas of the world, the problem of excluding men in the social change necessary for the advancement of women, the breakdown of the family, and eroding values and morals essential for basic human dignity.

Adolfo Luque, founder of Tierra Peruana in Peru, introduced a proposed theme park for disadvantaged children to enable them to have practical "hands-on" experience with their dream career as an innovative solution to children's need for education, inspiration and economic and cultural opportunities, which will help decrease their vulnerability to human trafficking.

Dr. Linda Young, president of the National Women's Political Caucus, addressed the need to uplift women in all areas of society, implementing a new mind-set about women, and promoting women's involvement as policy makers to combat inhumane practices which predominantly victimize women.

Shyam Pokharel, director of Samrakshak Samuha, gave some heart-breaking examples of the tragedies of trafficked victims during his many years fighting against human exploitation in Nepal.

Tageldin Hamad of UPF gave an uplifting concluding message of hope as he reflected on the passion, energy and collaboration in the crowded room, representing growing global connection of those determined to build a world of compassion and sense of responsibility to everyone in the human family.

Forum on "Women and the Family: Drivers of Sustainable Social Development"

At a side event in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library auditorium, the ambassadors of Belarus, Qatar, Indonesia and the Holy See made strong statements about the critical role of the family in promoting social, economic and cultural development and stability and the pressing need for including the family in the targets and implementation of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A moving video was shown about the essential role of mothers as key for human development, family cohesion and societal stability. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that the family is the fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection of society and state, yet the family was largely left out of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The message from all of the speakers was clear: If concrete action is not taken, the family will also be left out of the SDGs.

Sharon Slater, President of Family Watch International, gave numerous concrete examples of family-focused practices and programs that achieve enduring results in areas of poverty eradication, HIV/AIDS reduction, gender equality, and maternal and infant health in developing countries. She also gave data on the economic cost to all nations, both developed and developing, when families become weak and fragmented. Governments have much more work to do when families are unable to fulfill their many unique and essential functions, especially in raising responsible children. From the questions and answers, it was evident that much energy, determination and collaboration was rallied for efforts to promote the family as critical for achieving these goals and to consider a specific Sustainable Development Goal related to the family.

The large UN auditorium overflowed with an enthusiastic audience, sitting packed on the steps of both aisles. This event was organized by Family Watch International and co-sponsored by UPF.

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