MMS & UN news March 2016

Dear Readers,

Highlights of March includes International days: 8 women’s day, 20-happiness day-, 21-Forest, 22- World Water day and the UN Commission on the status of Women  from 14-24.

Honduran Activist Bertha Cáceres (43 yrs) assassinated: In November 2013 at the time of fraudulent national elections in Honduras,a “death list” surfaced and was given to international observers.  Bertha Cáceres was number one on that list. She continued her work of protecting the people and nature until she was brutally assassinated on March 2,2016.    Here is a link to a brief video “Mother of all Rivers” 2015 Goldman Environmental Award Acceptance Speech of Berta Cáceres

Some of us chose to join the protest for Bertha instead of the UN Women’s day on Mar 8.

International day of happiness :  more news

CSW 60 Events and news : Priority theme of the Commission on the Status of Women: “Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development”. About 6-8 thousand women came to New York from all corners of the world for CSW 60. They brought with them experiences of the women they represent – struggles, achievements, aspirations – and they shared their powerful determination to raise all women to their rightful place in society. The first week offered a plethora of programming and discussions on gender equality in many different areas – education, politics, the environment, security and more.    Human trafficking gained greater visibility this year with growing no of events held during the commission. MMS organized a parallel event on 3/22 in which Sr.Teresita Hinnegan and the Philadelphia Anti trafficking Coalition members were the speakers sharing their 10 years multifaceted collaboration of MMS, Covenant House, Salvation Army, Legal and FBI in providing services to the Victims. ( see for more info later.)

Special Events:  There were special sessions held in the evenings to highlight harmful practices like Honor killing by screening  the film The Girl in the River  based on a true story from Pakistan and  discussion with filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. Another event was sharing of experience Victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) from  Kenya, Child Marriage and Acid attack shared by Monica Mahindra from India.  There are many unhealthy practices in the world even in the 21 century to keep women & girls in bondage.

Story Telling: One way to Preventing Violence against Women is to harness the power of storytelling, to give voice to the voiceless, the panelists said. And in a later session ‘on The Power of Stories’, the presenters shared examples of how stories put a face on statistics, exposed and interrupted the status quo and positioned personal challenges as societal.

Among the storytellers was Berta Zúniga Cáceres, daughter of Bertha,  the environmental activist murdered in Honduras on March 3. Through a translator, Cáceres shared her story about her mother – the mother who taught her to open her mind deeply and understand the struggles of everyone and “understand that everyone is me.” Her mother, Cáceres said, taught her not to have prejudices but to celebrate and learn from the differences in the world. All were moved by her courage to speak just 15 days after the killing of her mother.

CSW Conclusions:The negotiations were difficult to come to an agreement with many contentious issues.The Conclusions also urged Governments to : strengthen women’s leadership and participation in decision-making in all areas of sustainable development; strengthen normative, legal and policy frameworks, including by adopting and reviewing implementation of laws that criminalize violence against women and girls; and promote and protect the human rights of all women and their sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights . On March 25 mid night, finally agreed conclusions were adopted by member states besides closing the CSW 60.

More :

In 2016, the UN will appoint a new Secretary-General (SG) : The United Nations has existed for over 70 years, but in this time it has never had a woman leader. Members of the UN will elect a new Secretary-General later this year. It’s time they showed their commitment to equality by electing their first woman leader.

The President of the General Assembly (PGA) is organizing informal dialogues between UN Member States and Secretary General Candidates starting in April 2016. The PGA has requested UN-NGLS to facilitate a process with civil society to provide questions online that can be asked to candidates during these dialogues. A campaign “One in 7 billion” is advocating for a woman SG.      

Responses from MMS participants of Parallel event:

From  Phyllis Backer :

Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to attend the workshop.The UN conference on trafficking, which was held on March 22nd, was well attended.  There were 5 presenters, introduced by Sister Celine Paramundayil, and each one was excellent.  They were all very committed to their involvements with those trafficed, especially with the very young persons. Each one was passionate in their concern and care for them.I think many came away from the workshop inspired, motivated to contribute and assist in whatever way possible.

From Teresita:

Celine, thanks for all of your support. It was a good experience for me. Since MMS are so much a part of what the UN is all about in the pursuit of justice for all people, it would be good for us to have a presentation every year. An important part of the experience is talking with members of the audience. After the event I was talking with a young woman from Mexico City who is working with trafficking issues. Hopefully she will keep in contact.

From Evelyn:

Human trafficking, whose victims are largely women and children, is one of the very critical issue of our times. Thus, the opportunity to follow the debates on this terrible phenomenon was not to be missed when it came up as topic at the UN. Those benefitting from this shameful trafficking are very determined people working behind the scenes of cross-border networks. They are not ready to give up the benefits they derive from this modern day trade in slavery. The presentations were encouraging for at least two reasons:

1. The fight against human trafficking is very organized, and involves professionals who give their competences and their availability for the fight against human trafficking. All members of the panel gave the impression of mastering the subject and to have legal means to fight this phenomenon and protect victims.

  1.  Human trafficking is a global threat that needs a global concern and sharing in concert with all the actors of this peril. Many participants coming from overseas were part of the discussions and shared their own experience. It was an occasion to build ideas, to connect with others and never be alone in the struggle against human trafficking.

From Lucy:  An example of bridge building 

Through Celine Paramundayil, Medical Mission Sisters joined other NGO’s in sponsoring a workshop on human trafficking at the  CSW 60. Teresita Hinnegan along with colleagues from the Philadelphia anti-human trafficking network gave an inspiring panel presentation on a multi-faceted response to human trafficking in the Philadelphia area that has developed over the last 10 years. Panelists spoke of the work  Dawn’s Place, Covenant House and the Salvation Army Drop In Center in providing direct services; of the role of the FBI law enforcement in helping trafficked women and youth and prosecuting their perpetrators; and of the efforts of local lawyers in creating necessary legislation to more effectively fight trafficking and open possibilities to expand  services for women and children vulnerable to exploitation. Interagency collaboration and cooperation has been critical to the successful implementation of each agency’s own unique mission. Such networking is also an essential element of global efforts to eradicate this modern day slavery.  A Nigerian woman, who was also present in another session we attended, had been asking how she might be able to initiate a collaborative anti-trafficking work in her own local area. The Philadelphia panel offered an encouraging example of what elements might be included as part of a holistic approach.  In addition this same Nigerian woman learned of national and international networks already on the ground in Nigeria, and with whom she could connect. This kind of cross-fertilization and bridge-building,is one of the exciting dimensions of CSW.

Lucy stated “I realize that how touching it was to hear each panelist speak to the passion and dedication of Teresita and how her tireless leadership has been so inspiring. As one panelist Hugh Organ said, ” I hope I have the energy and enthusiasm she has when I’m her age!”

(More from Maria Mele, MMS Associate Dpt in the Intranet/Hot line)

Thank you all !

Celine Paramunda

(Pic L – R , PATC Team-  Hugh Organ, Sr.Teresita, Jaime, Rosemarie, and Kathy and  moderator Celine P.)

CSW 60 Side event