ARS Participates in UN Conference on Women

The Armenian Relief Society participated in the United Nation’s 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, from March 4-15, 2013. CSW, a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), is “the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women”. The theme of this year’s CSW was “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”. Approximately six thousand women from all over the world registered to attend the CSW57 events.

As in previous years, the ARS joined CSW57 to give a voice to women and girls across the world fighting against all types of violence. Throughout the last eight months the ARS UN committee chairperson, Stephanie Killian, together with our ARS UN coordinator, Houry Geudelekian, worked hard to plan a series of co-sponsored parallel events in cooperation with various organizations that work against violence against women.

The CSW57 Consultation Day took place on March 3, at the Armenian Convention Center ballroom, with an international delegation of eight hundred women who had come to learn about and prepare to advocate

ARS representatives with Ambassador Garen Nazarian at the Armenian Mission.

ARS representatives with Ambassador Garen Nazarian at the Armenian Mission.

against “Violence Against Women” (VAW).

The welcoming speech was given by Soon-Young Yoon, Chairperson of the NGO CSW/NY. Yoon stressed the importance of education in empowering girls and women with courage and resilience.

Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, conveyed the message of UN Women to the participants. Bachelet emphasized that discrimination and violence have no place in the 21st century. She also stressed the fact that there is no prosperity or progress without women; therefore, violence against women is undermining development goals. “The CSW57 results in action of promises made and agreements signed, and we must effectively tackle the main causes of violence against women as we work toward the Millennium Development Goals,” she said. Lastly, Bachelet focused on the role of men and boys in fighting against violence against women.

The keynote addresses were presented by CSW Women of Distinction Awardees: founder and president of Femmes Africains Solidarite Bineta Diop, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkel Karman.

The program was followed by several panel discussions on trafficking of women and girls, the role of men, and best practices to prevent violence against women and girls.

A training session in communications and social media organized by PCI Media Impact and Breakthrough, in collaboration with the Avon Foundation, was held at the end of the event.

Participants left the Armenian Convention Center with great expectations of the upcoming events and discussions throughout the two weeks of CSW57.

On Monday, March 4, the ARS, together with the Permanent Missions of Armenia and Estonia to the UN and the NGO CSW/NY, partnered with the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and the Armenian General Benevolent Union for a parallel event entitled, “Commemoration of SC [Security Council] Resolution #1325: What Lies Ahead?”. This high level parallel event was moderated by H.E. of Armenia to the UN Ambassador Garen Nazarian. The panelists were Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia H.E. Urmas Paet, Bineta Diop, UN representative of the International Alliance of Women and Chair of CSW /NY Soon-Young Yoon, UN Women’s Chief Advisor on Peace and Security Anne Marie Goetz, and International Coordinator of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders Mavic Cabrera-Balleza.

Minister Paet stressed the need to focus on security, development, and human rights. Unfortunately, sexual violence continues to be used as a tactic for war, said Paet. It is true that UN SC Resolution 1325 deals with women in military conflict zones, however it can also be applied in societies that are in peace. As a consequence, reparations should be used as a tool to empower women and girls, and women must be engaged in peace negotiations. Bineta Diop focused on the significance of equal access and full participation of women in the peace process. Diop stated that the impact of conflict on women is a universal problem, and if peace agreements don’t talk about gender-based violence, there cannot be durable peace.

Anne Marie Goetz of UN Women mentioned the need to support women’s civil society organizations while referring to the fact that the biggest gap in implementing SC Resolution 1325 is giving women a voice in civil society.

Soon-Young Soon raised the question of how the draft recommendation for action, “Women and Girls in Conflict Prevention, Conflict, and Post Conflict”, presented at the last Convention on the “Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,” can make a difference in the lives of survivors of violence. She also stated the need for data and surveys regarding the situation of women on the ground.

Mavic Cabrera-Baleza of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders talked about the importance of the localization of national action plans some countries use to make a change in society.

A meeting between H.E. Ambassador Garen Nazarian and ARS members took place at the Armenian Mission on Tuesday, March 5. During the meeting, discussions took place regarding social issues in Armenia, Artsakh and Javakhk and the role of the ARS in implementing projects towards the benefit of social development, education and healthcare. Ambassador Nazarian congratulated the ARS for its extraordinary work, both in Armenia and the Diaspora. The role of the ARS in the post- 2015 Development Agenda, as well as the Society’s involvement in the NGO CSW/NY activities, became a focal point of the meeting.

The ARS delegation, including ARS UN committee members and ARS Inc. Executive Director Lala Demirdjian-Attarian,  participated at the annual reception, chaired by Geudelekian. During  the reception, two women of distinction awards were presented to Bineta Diop and Tawakkol Karman.

During  CSW57, ARS partnered on parallel events with four organizations.  Together with ZONTA International, the ARS organized a parallel event on “Trafficking”. The panelists included Lynn McKenzie, president of Zonta International and the Zonta International Foundation, Nola Theiss, Executive Director and founder of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships,  Nora Armani, actress and filmmaker, and Nicole Zundorf-Hinte, an adviser in the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth. The panelists discussed trafficking victims in the US, the protection of victims, prosecution of traffickers, and the types and goals of preventive programs. They shared the work they have done to help victims of trafficking and to fight against trafficking. Armani, who was invited by the ARS, focused on the power of media and films as a tool to raise awareness about human trafficking and violence against women.

NGO CSW/NY committee members singing the theme song at the closing of the Consultation Day.

NGO CSW/NY committee members singing the theme song at the closing of the Consultation Day.

The second partnership was with the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW). The panel discussed the role of men and boys and their involvement in the fight against VAW. The panelists gave examples of what different societies believe in and how men and women behave regarding VAW.

A panel on the “Global Perspective on VAW” was organized in partnership with The Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund. It was a moderated panel discussion on grassroots programs educating women and girls about their rights and creating prevention programs. Panelists discussed case studies of countries, such as Rwanda, Georgia, Argentina, and the Philippines, implementing programs to fight violence against women.

ARS’ final event, in partnership with the Al Hakim Foundation, was entitled “Activation of Spiritual and Religious Values to Combat VAW”. The ARS invited Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian as one of the panelists. Bishop Tanielian explained the importance of religion in regards to gender equality and the female role stating that the importance of the panel discussion is to find dynamic ways and means to prevent acts of violence. Through references to the Holy Scriptures, the Bishop gave examples of how unlawful acts of violence have been criticized and how the roles of husband and wife have been depicted over the centuries. Moreover, Bishop Tanielian focused on the power of education to prevent violence in general, and specifically against women, concluding, “…the sacred task of educating belongs not only to the school instructors, but to all of us. We have to gear all our systems to get rid of violence, this universal virus which deteriorates our society…”

Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian participating at the panel discussion on “Activation of Spiritual and Religious Values to Combat VAW”.

Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian participating at the panel discussion on “Activation of Spiritual and Religious Values to Combat VAW”.

Throughout the two weeks of the CSW57, ARS UN committee members and UN badge holders attended many side events that addressed matters such as ending child and early forced marriages, protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and providing justice and critical services for survivors of violence. The  participation of the ARS at the CSW, which tackled the contemporary and significantly important issues of women’s and girls’ rights and violence against women, is now opening new doors for further partnerships at the UN/CSW level, prioritizing the post-2015 development framework . The continuous efforts and commitment of ARS UN committee members and badge holders result in the organization’s year-long involvement with other UN entities, such as UN Women, NGO/Human Rights, UNDP, UNSPA, DESA, and the office of the Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights.

“The ARS is proud to have been a part of such a successful and meaningful CSW,” stated Pauline Getzoyan, Central Executive Board member. “The Board is very pleased with the hard work and dedication of our UN coordinator, Houry Geudelekian, as well as the entire UN Committee, including our badge holders, for organizing appropriate events and partnerships in the battle to eradicate violence against women and girls. The role of the ARS at the United Nations continues to grow and will become increasingly important, particularly with regards to our ongoing work on behalf of women and girls internationally,” Getzoyan concluded.

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