Legal Mechanisms to Eradicate Poverty – Presentation by Grove Harris

Legal Mechanisms to Eradicate Poverty & Achieve Sustainable Development
Side event for the UN’s 56th Commission for Social Development 2018
February 7, 2018

Denise Scotto, Esq., Attorney at Law & International Policy Advisor, FIDA/FIFCJ UN Representative; Grove Harris, MDiv, Temple of Understanding; and Winifred Doherty, UN Representative, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd


Presentation by Grove Harris, Representative to the United Nations, Temple of Understanding

Thank you for the invitation to join this panel.

So much is interconnected in all the sustainable development goals, and the eradication of poverty requires efforts on many fronts.  My colleague Winifred Doherty has laid out efforts within the UN over years, with treaties and agreements.  Our convener Denise Scotto has affirmed the value of action from all. We each can act, and act now. All of the Temple of Understanding’s work contributes towards a common welfare where we all have enough. 

Ecological Justice is crucial – we all need clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and health free from chemical affronts, including pesticides.

Food Sovereignty speaks to local control over agriculture and food, including seeds and methods of production.  We call for a shift towards earth-centered politics and economics, and collective restraint of corporate exploitation.

The Human Right to Water requires an ongoing struggle to protect and increase community control and prevent exploitation and privatization of water, a common (and sacred) good.

Interfaith Education is important to regain curiosity and respect for our neighbors, and counter the “othering” that impoverishes our communities, our psyches, and our world.

Peacemaking, which practically defined requires food, water, and health, is crucial for ending poverty.  War only profits the arms manufacturers, and it devastates communities and the environment.

Women’s Initiatives are essential, as women are much more likely to be impoverished, along with their children, and gender justice can begin to redress this, for the good of the entire community. Poverty brings intense vulnerability and is systemic.

How can we get at the heart of systems and act for real change?

  • We need to break up concentrated wealth.
  • We need to focus on community flourishing.
  • We need to get much smarter about “partnerships.”
  • We need to protect frontline human rights defenders.
  • We need to act, aligning our spirit, our hearts, and hands.

We need to break up concentrated wealth.

The concentration of wealth into the hands of the very few is strangling the opportunities of communities.  Redistribution is key, through creative changes in the system. Some examples (U.S. based) provide some hope for real change:

How about free higher education? In California, this could be funded by reinstating the state’s estate tax on wealth over 3.5 million.  This idea has been put forth by Chuck Collins in Common Dreams.

How about reclaiming the markets for debt? The Occupy Movement has been buying up medical debt for pennies on the dollar, freeing people with major illness from devastating debt burdens, and then asking them to contribute towards freeing the next person.  Can we do the same for educational debt?  What about Puerto Rico, where one man in Boston bought up most of the country’s debt for pennies on the dollar, investing for “profit” (in this case greed) rather than shared prosperity?

How about holding corporations responsible for contributing to climate change?  For example, New York City is suing the top five oil companies to recoup damages from super storm Sandy, holding them responsible for climate impacts and their prior knowledge of environmental damage. NYC is also moving to divest.

How about holding governments responsible? Youth are suing the U.S federal government in courts – and winning – over their right to a future without environmental degradation, and government’s neglect in not protecting that.

How about shinning more light on the lengthy and slow work at the United Nations in Geneva towards an international legally binding treaty for corporate responsibility for Human Rights? 

We need to focus on community flourishing.

Daniel Perell spoke of community flourishing in the opening statement he delivered on behalf of the NGO Committee for Social Development. Clearly, we must shift from individualism and defining success by profit for the few.  Our individual struggles must be collective ones, ending poverty on a community basis, with goods and services circulating locally as well as nationally and internationally, in ways that distribute technology and leap frog towards more environmental sustainability, while supporting local strength and advancement. Cooperatives, credit unions, and community-based service delivery systems must be enhanced.  Re-localizing agriculture is essential, along with other service provisions. For example, in the U.S. the crisis of care for dementia is beginning to be addressed by locally based, free caregiver support systems.  There is great need, and so great opportunity, and it can be approached in collective, supportive, grassroots ways.

Access to world markets and goods, technology and capital essential for economic miracles must be tempered by human rights, by full cycle design and upcycling. Community prosperity is key, and governments must benefit from the prospering of business, not just subsidize that private prosperity.  Protection of the risks of entrepreneurs and investors must be tempered – the most vulnerable suffer risks every day without protection.  We need social systems where no one is expendable and protection is available to all, from investors to the most vulnerable.

Riki Ott, who served the Alaskan community after the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster, found herself very useful, with her academic training in oceanography and the accompanying patience for reports and intellectual work, to the community of fisher people.  Her legal work brought financial rewards to the community, but those funds brought challenges of divisiveness and opportunity for some but not for all.  Her ongoing work to bring oil companies to task for the risks they run that inevitably lead to catastrophes and costs born by the environment and communities includes reaching out to law students, to train them to bring cases against all businesses that have not follow the due diligence laws already on the books.  Many do not have legally mandated emergency response plans and means in place.  In this sense, legal remedy for poverty looks like holding businesses accountable to existing laws, and can include work against the dark economy and illicit avoidance of taxation, profiteering drug and arms trading etc.

Poverty is not strictly economic – it can be cultural. Lack of human compassion, of human touch, and of welcoming community are part of what drive isolation and economic insanity.  People who survive eating sugar rather than real food, by being fed on advertizing rather than information or literature, shopping to fill holes in heart and soul, being driven to drugs rather than more balanced lifestyles, are impoverished. They are vulnerable to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, struggling without community solutions to problems that cannot be managed by individuals or nuclear families in isolation. We cannot face powerlessness alone, and in coming together with others we can discover some power and flourish in community.

Indigenous peoples are fighting around the globe to protect sacred lands and sacred waters.  They honor their spiritual commitments and interconnectedness and resist in community.  I watched live web cast of native people at Standing Rock facing water cannons at night in the freezing cold of winter, protecting their sacred waters, which also protected the entire watershed and the water used by everyone downstream.  While these people may not have the means to afford material comforts, they have a richness that cannot be denied.

We need to get much smarter about “partnerships.”

There is much eager talk about partnerships to achieve the SDGs, and usually meaning between corporations and governments.  There is very little discussion of the dynamics of partnerships and the differing interests and accountabilities of the parties.  Corporations serve their shareholders via profit, and governments sometimes serve their citizens and other times serve their financial backers. In our interconnected world, none of this happens in a vacuum.

Dictionary definitions can lift up multiple layers of meaning.

Partner – one that is united or associated with another or others in an activity or sphere of common interest, especially a member of a business partnership or a spouse (emphasis added). Middle English, alteration of parcener.  Partner implies equal status.


Partnership is a legal contract entered into by two or more persons in which each agrees to furnish a part of the capital and labor for a business enterprise, and by which each shares a fixed proportion of profits and losses.  Mutual cooperation and responsibility is mentioned.


Parcener – (coparcener) one of two or more persons sharing an inheritance, a joint heir (emphasis added).


(All excerpted from the American Heritage Dictionary – Fourth Edition, 2000)


Our business partnerships can be subject to the same abuses that marriage partnerships sometimes involve.  Business needs more than capital and labor – all extractive industries take from the earth without replenishment. Natural resources are depleted – a common inheritance is taken from the public domain and misused as an invisible part of the model, for private profit.

Clearly there are large costs to be anticipated in negotiating major contractual partnerships, and globally a track record of dismal results from megaprojects and water privatization schemes.  And the “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the American dollar does not protect our common inheritance of clean and accessible water, or clean air or clean soil.

Protect frontline environmental human rights defenders.

Legal mechanisms continue to be developed, and it is a cutting edge question as to how international human rights law can effectively protect frontline environmental human rights defenders.  Note the diplomatic sentence on page 10 of the NGO Mining Working Group Water guide, “There are significant gaps in existing national and international legal frameworks for pursuing accountability against transnational corporations for human rights abuses.” We must remain cognizant that many front line defenders are making the ultimate sacrifice.  For example, Berta Caceres of Honduras was murdered after numerous death threats for her work defending a watershed against a dam project. Her international recognition with a Goldman environmental prize did not save her life. And outrage over her murder did not save the life of others in her organization, murdered within the year.

What has been effective in this case has been the lobbying of the investors in the dam, who have withdrawn their funds.  Hopefully legislation introduced in the US House will have some impact, prohibiting funds for Honduras police and military. H.R. 5474, The Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act is held up in committee; it outlines a set of measures and is available online. Similarly, a second bill H.R. 1299, March 2, 2017 seeks to protect front line activists and farmers who have been murdered defending their water and land.

The Women’s Major Group has developed a method of highlighting these tragic deaths at UN conferences. A group of women put tape over their mouths, and as the names of those murdered defending water and land are read, a woman pulls of the tape and says “presente”.  This is an attempt to bring voice to the voiceless, and call for necessary change on violations of the rule of law. May all of us remember the impacts on the ground of the issues debated here at the United Nations.

I have colleagues in the room who regularly refer to their congregations around the globe to find out how they might usefully shine a light on human rights abuses.  There are times when such attention might further endanger the lives of those on the front lines.  There’s a useful manual about how to appropriately engage in solidarity.  For those of us lifting up the stories of others, it’s about respecting their circumstances and their wishes, and not making the story about ourselves.  We need to keep the focus our mutual concerns, which are the water and land and their preservation for this and future generations.

In conclusion, we are called to act.

We need to act, aligning our spirit, our heads, our hearts, our hands and our feet.

  • Be alert to ‘fake’ language that covers over privatization that will benefit the few at the expense of the community.
  • Use U.N. mechanisms to support calls for action at local levels.
  • Lobby funders of development projects that are trampling on human rights.
  • Fund effective interventions like self-defense training for girls and self-respect training for boys.
  • Collaborate with those more in the know. Religious activists can work with local community experts and with global advocacy experts.
  • Plan on grief, my own and others’. We need to support each other and understand that anger may be a response to grief.  
  • Align our values and passion with action.
  • Welcome others to this work.
  • Own our own vulnerability. Avoid rigid defenses, to be able to respond rather than react to ongoing assaults.
  • Take Sabbath time, meditation time, and prayer time to help renew, refresh, and maintain clear focus.
  • Each of us can own whatever privilege we have, and strategize about how to use it.
  • Listen. Listen. To the Earth, to children, to the sacred.  And to other people.


Gender Action Plan Integrates Gender Issues into Climate Policies at COP23

Via the Women’s Major Group, one of TOU’s partners representing the rights of women worldwide in the United Nations processes on Sustainable Development:

PRESS RELEASE: Adoption of the Gender Action Plan at COP23, by Women & Gender Constituency

Adoption of the first Gender Action Plan under the UNFCCC
(United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)
15 November 2017



On Tuesday November 14, 2017, the first ever Gender Action Plan to the UNFCCC was adopted at COP23. Its overall goal is to support and enhance the implementation of the gender-related decisions and mandates so far adopted in the UNFCCC process through a set of specific activities to be conducted within the next 2 years.


Kalyani Raj, All India Women’s Conference

“The adoption of the Gender Action Plan (GAP) is a positive step forward. It goes to reassure some of our work at the national level particularly relating to gender integration into climate change policies and related schemes. We would be happy to work with our government at the implementation level and hope to close bigger gaps impeding gender inequality with the GAP.”


Bridget Burns, co-focal point of the Women and Gender Constituency and co-director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO)

“We are well beyond the time for real action on gender-just climate policies.The Gender Action Plan (GAP) serves as an important accelerator in advancing multiple mandates for gender equality that exist under the UNFCCC. But, the test will be in the implementation. We will be holding governments accountable, both developed countries in putting serious financing into gender-responsive policy development as well as all countries in fulfilling human rights via their climate plans. For a truly gender-just climate change framework, we must continue to demand climate justice from the entire process.”


Shradha Shreejaya, Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

“The proceedings on GAP have been reassuring. Keeping in mind however the urgency of the climate crisis, especially in Asia-Pacific and Africa, we need strengthened action and solidarity from developed countries in terms of committing to finance GAP as well as Loss and Damages, something that’s still amiss from COP 23 decisions.”


Dinda Yura, Solidaritas Perempuan, Indonesia

“We now have Gender Action Plan, as one step of the milestones for gender equality and women’s empowerment through inclusiveness of women as well as gender sensitive and responsive policies and actions in all elements of mitigation, adaptation, capacity building, technology transfer, and finance. What we need to think and do further in the implementation is how to use GAP and mainstreaming gender justice principles and be integrated in policies and climate actions, in particularly at national and local level, to ensure there is no climate policies and actions that violate women’s rights and the rights of women can be protected in the midst of climate crisis.”


Gotelind Alber, board member of GenderCC – Women for Climate Justice and co-founder of the Women and Gender Constituency

“The Gender Action Plan is a milestone in our longstanding efforts to integrate gender into the international climate process. If properly implemented, resourced and monitored it bears the potential to move us closer to achieving women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the UNFCCC process and the development and implementation of gender-responsive and human rights based climate policies in all thematic areas of the process as well as on national and sub-national levels.”


Priscilla M Achakpa, Director of Women’s Environmental Programme and gender expert on the Nigerian Delegation

“Now that the GAP has been adopted, it is time to work collectively from the regional to the global level while ensuring that resources and made available for the full implementation of the GAP. We cannot afford to fail, grassroots, indigenous population and communities must be fully integrated in the GAP.”


Anne Barre, Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF) International

“The GAP is essential because there is still so much to do to bridge the “gender gap” and have more efficient climate policies! For example in climate finance, according to the OECD 2017 report, less than 5% of climate funds have gender as a main objective. Thus women’s priorities are being totally neglected, and women have no direct access to climate funding. And yet, many innovative solutions on the ground exist today that should be  upscaled with direct access to the Green Climate Fund. In turning the patriarchal system upside down, we will be able to reach the goal of the Paris Agreement.”


Marta Benavides, social movements, El Salvador, Latin America

“Women have been at the forefront of human development, for women caring for the planet and the well being of nature and humans in their families and communities. The Gender Action Plan is an affirmation of that. As it is the affirmation of the indigenous peoples path. It was a historical debt for the climate process. We now expect to start working for the essentials of the climate process: to work effectively and urgently to keep global warming under 1.5°C and to move effectively on all needed levels towards a just transition and to ensure that really and for good No One Is Left Behind.”



The Women and Gender Constituency to the UNFCCC



Tuesday, 14 November, 2017



COP23 climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany



Climate change is one of the most daunting global challenges of our time. As changing temperatures, weather patterns, and ecological systems threaten communities all over the world, the effects will be felt differently between the global North and South, various social classes, and between men and women. Just as any disaster can exacerbate existing social differences, climate change can be expected to worsen the distinction between men, women, and gender-nonconforming individuals in terms of opportunity, safety, and general wellbeing. In addition to the looming threat posed by climate change, gender distinctions in relation to environmental issues can already be observed. According to the Women’s Environmental Development Organization (,) only 12% of federal environment ministries worldwide are headed by women, as of 2015. Women on average make up 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, and around 50% in sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2010, only 15% of land in sub-Saharan Africa is owned by women. Females are more likely to be killed by natural disasters and/or are systematically killed more often than males. In Malawi, gender inequalities in agriculture cost USD $100 million. At the current rate of increase, gender parity in negotiations will only be reached by 2040.

The Gender Action Plan represents a landmark opportunity to improve the quality of life for women worldwide, as well as ensure their equal representation in climate policy and planning.



The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) is one of the nine stakeholder groups of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Established in 2009, the WGC now consists of 27 women’s and environmental civil society organizations, who are working to ensure that women’s voices and their rights are embedded in all processes and results of the UNFCCC framework, for a sustainable and just future, so that gender equality and women’s human rights are central to the ongoing discussions. As the WGC represents the voices of hundreds and thousands of people across the globe, members of the Constituency are present at each UNFCCC meeting and intersessional alongside the UNFCCC Secretariat, governments, civil society observers and other stakeholders to ensure that women’s rights and gender justice are core elements of the UNFCCC. In this action the constituency is joined by other stakeholders committed to advancing women’s human rights, peace and climate justice.



Women and Gender Constituency Key Demands:


2017 UN Commission on the Status of Women Report (CSW61)

The Temple of Understanding collaboratively organized three successful sessions and an interfaith service of remembrance during the 61st Annual Commission on the Status of Women

TOU board members and attendees at CSW61


For the overall proceedings, we suggest this report by colleague Kate Lappin, of APWLD and the Women’s Major Group, who assessed Four wins at CSW this year:

  1. Committing to gender responsive just transitions in the context of climate change
  2. Recognising the role of trade unions in addressing economic inequalities and the gender pay gap
  3. More detailed methods to ensure the redistribution of unpaid care work
  4. Referring to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP)  [Read more]

Also recommended is the Report on CSW61 and Analysis of the Agreed Conclusions by Ms. Lakshmi Puri, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.


Interfaith Service of Remembrance, CSW61


This year’s interfaith service again remembered women murdered for standing up for their rights. Four months after the death of Berta Cáceres, her colleague Lesbia Yaneth Urquia was murdered for the same work: trying to stop a hydroelectric project that threatened water and land. The Council of Indigenous People of Honduras (Copinh) is quoted as writing, “The death of Lesbia Yaneth is a political femicide that tries to silence the voices of women with the courage and bravery to defend their rights.”


Roberto Mukaro Borrerro, Grove Harris, Betty Lyons


Our joint DPI/NGO session was entitled “Women as Roots of Change: Sustainable Food Production and Sovereignty.” Speakers included Sister Celine Paramunda, Medical Mission Sisters; Betty Lyons (Onondaga Nation), American Indian Law Alliance; Roberto Mukaro Borrerro, International Indian Treaty Council; and Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief, New York UNCTAD. It was a pleasure to collaborate with DPI colleagues Hawa Diallo, who brilliantly introduced the panel, and the production team including Krystal Fruscella and Chioma Onwumelu (all pictured below).

Our full crew: Women as Roots of Change DPI/NGO Session at CSW61


The complete session can be viewed on UN Web TV by clicking the image below: 


Our session “On a Gender-Just and Sustainable Trade Agenda,” co-sponsored by UNCTAD and the Women’s Major Group, both highlighted the need for more advocacy towards a gendered understanding of trade policies, and commended women’s activism in pushing for it. UNCTAD has a set of online publications that are part of their gender initiative. They write, “Taking into account gender perspectives in macro-economic policy, including trade policy, is essential to pursuing inclusive and sustainable development and to achieving fairer and beneficial outcomes for all.”

This event, held in the Ex-Press Bar, was hugely successful. The room was filled to capacity (over 80 people) and the audience included a graduate class of women training in international affairs.

Grove Harris, Kate Lappin, Chantal Line Carpentier


Grove Harris moderated and showed the film, Roots of Change: Food Sovereignty, Women and Eco-Justice. Speaker Kate Lappin was brilliant, explaining that development funding reverts profits back to the donor countries and further demystifying trade. Then Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier congratulated women’s activism, which has driven UNCTAD’s new gender and trade initiative. After the panel, Dr. Carpentier expressed appreciation for the opportunity to keep working with the NGO community on trade and financial concerns.

Speakers from the floor included Alina Saba, an Indigenous youth from Nepal who spoke to a community perspective, rather than an implicitly individualistic one. Nick Anton spoke on the new People’s Water Guide, and Ana Alvarez brought up the issue of corporate power. Theresa Blumenfield questioned UNCTAD’s uncritical acceptance of the corporate strategy of developing robots to avoid paying human workers.

Celine Paramunda, Crystal Simeoni, Grove Harris


Our session “Roots of Change: Reclaiming Economics for Women and Community” gave the audience an opportunity to exchange personal views and voice heartfelt concerns. We are especially grateful for the presence of speakers Crystal Simeoni of FEMNET and Sister Celine Paramunda of Medical Mission Sisters. Simeoni’s background in rural economic development and fighting inequality was coupled with clarity and insight. Sr. Paramunda offered heartfelt remarks on women’s leadership and spirit. She also led a brief meditation about breath and relationship, relating us to trees and the cycle of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

FEMNET, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network, offered a set of Red Flags expressing grave concerns about the direction of CSW61. Naming eighteen areas of concern, they warn, “The 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women is heading toward a weak, even regressive, outcome that fails to address the current state of the world of work, let alone address future challenges.” These areas will require ongoing monitoring and activism.



Interfaith Service of Gratitude and Remembrance (CSW61)

[4/19/17 UPDATE: Scroll down for photos of this beautiful event!]

Temple of Understanding, Parliament of the World’s Religions,
Interfaith Center of New York, World Peace Prayer Society, International Yoga Day Committee at the UN,
United Religions Initiative, and United Methodist Women invite you to attend

The Third Annual Interfaith Service of Gratitude and Remembrance

Thursday, March 16, 2017, 4:45 – 6:00 PM
Church Center for the United Nations, Chapel
44th Street and First Avenue, New York

Join us in prayerful remembrance of those who have gone before us and who continue to inspire our lives. We carry their courage and commitment forward. 

There will be a time to remember those who have passed during this year.

Special music will be provided by The Performance & Peace Initiative with Brandon Perdomo on flute and Caitlin Cawley on Percussion.

  • Rev. Dionne Boissiere, Chaplain of the Church Center for the United Nations
  • Grove Harris, MDiv., The Temple of Understanding
  • Dr. Kusumita Pedersen, Interfaith Center of New York
  • Denise Scotto, Esq., International Yoga Day Committee
  • Monica Willard, United Religions Initiative

“When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision – then it becomes
less and less important whether I am afraid.“ – Audre Lorde

* * * * *

Photos from the event:

Group, Interfaith Service of Remembrance, CSW61 – March 2017


Rev. Dionne Boissiere, Chaplain of the Church Center for the United Nations


Denise Scotto, Esq., International Yoga Day Committee


Grove Harris, Temple of Understanding


Monica Willard, United Religions Initiative


Group, Interfaith Service of Remembrance, CSW61 – March 2017









Women as Roots of Change: Sustainable Food Production and Sovereignty (CSW61)

The UN Department of Public Information (DPI),
in partnership with the Temple of Understanding, presents

Women as Roots of Change: Sustainable Food Production and Sovereignty

Part of the 61st Commission on the Status of Women (Side Event)

 Thursday, March 23, 2017, 11 am – 12:45 pm
Conference Room 2, United Nations Headquarters, New York


Building on the intersections between Sustainable Development Goals 2, 5, and 6, this briefing will feature the voices of Indigenous people and highlight women’s leadership role in sustainable food production and sovereignty.


  • Sister Celine Paramunda, Medical Mission Sisters
  • Betty Lyons (Onondaga Nation), American Indian Law Alliance
  • Roberto Mukaro Borrerro, International Indian Treaty Council
  • Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief, New York UNCTAD

The relevant Sustainable Development Goals include:

2. Zero Hunger
5. Gender Equality
6. Clean Water and Sanitation

The Temple is extremely grateful to Tribal Link for their collaboration on this event.




Click for PDF flyer >>



Roots of Change: Reclaiming Economics for Women and Community (CSW61)

Roots of Change: Reclaiming Economics for Women and Community

Part of the 61st Commission on the Status of Women

Thursday, March 16, 10:30 am
Salvation Army, Downstairs
221 E 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022


Women’s opportunity and necessity has traditionally been in farming and textiles. It is crucial to re-vision women’s roles in a broader context. Women’s economic empowerment needs to involve equity, ownership, and a community focus. Our 10-minute film Roots of Change: Food Sovereignty, Women and Eco-Justice demonstrates the dangers we face as corporations replace local family farms and fisheries. It features women’s perspectives and includes men on all levels, suggesting the values we need to foster in order to reclaim our economic future.

Speakers will address concerns such as loss of local knowledge, community based solutions, innovative practices, and the impacts of international trade. In our interconnected world, women’s empowerment lies in a robust local community as well as justice in the global community.


  • Sister Celine Paramunda, Medical Mission Sisters
  • Crystal Simeoni, FEMNET
  • Grove Harris, Temple of Understanding

Co-sponsored by the Temple of Understanding, the Women’s Major Group, and the Mining Working Group.

The Elusive Woman Secretary-General #UN

The UN General Assembly elected its next Secretary-General on October 13 — António Guterres of Portugal, the ninth man to hold the position. Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN, spoke on his disappointment that the position has not yet been held by a woman.

Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury

Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury

The Council members were totally insensitive to a groundswell of support worldwide for a woman as the next Secretary-General. They advanced the legacy of ignoring the 50 per cent of humanity in their action. This is an absolute aberration of the system whereby the 15 members of the Council impose their choice prompted by P-5 pressure and manipulation upon the total membership of 193, not to speak of wide swath of civil society opinion and activism for a woman Secretary-General.

It is so very unfortunate that in the selection process politics has trumped women’s equality, violating UN Charter’s article 8 which underscores the eligibility and equality of men and women to participate in any capacity in all its organs – principal or subsidiary.

Read more on the Inter Press Service >>

Short Film on Food Sovereignty and Women by TOU, Oct. 24 Premiere in NYC

Roots of Change: Food Sovereignty, Women, and Eco-Justice

Update: Watch This Film Now! >>

Premiere and Discussion

Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier
(Chief, New York UNCTAD)
Dr. Azza Karam (UNFPA)
speakers from the film and audience members

Monday, October 24, 2-4 PM
Church Center at the United Nations
2nd Floor Conference Room
1st Ave and 44th St., NYC

“We can no longer afford to keep women at bay, to keep them 
from the resources that they need to be able to grow food, 
to be able to feed their families, to be able to feed their communities,
to bring their knowledge and their leadership to the fore.”
–Grove Harris, Roots of Change

Roots of Change
 features women’s spirited calls to change our global direction. In this visually striking short film, women warn of the current realities and looming threats of food crisis, climate change, and corruption. Women’s leadership and ownership in local systems of food production are desperately needed–as is the collaboration of their husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons. This leadership and ownership is what is meant by food sovereignty.


Through grassroots activism and transformation of global trade, people can work to curb exploitation of people and the planet. Foreign direct investment must be shaped to benefit women and Indigenous people. Additionally, people’s rights to commonly held resources such as water and agricultural land must be protected.The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals were designed to address the root causes of inequality. Both education and financial resources are required to address needs such as clean water and sanitation, nourishing food, and affordable clean energy. But the sustainability goals cannot be met without the full participation of women. Their effort and knowledge is needed to move forward, to develop diversified agricultural systems that will sustain humanity through the crisis of global climate change.

Roots of Change envisions a revolution in values that will result in clean water and nourishing food for all: a global culture in harmony with the environment that values relationships more than things. Only with a radical system shift that liberates the voices and bodies of women can we achieve a future that is healthy, diverse, peaceful, and whole.

Speakers in the film come from the Temple of Understanding’s events at the Commission on the Status of Women, the annual forum for advocacy on women’s issues at the United Nations.

Tea and cookies will be served.

Women lead Friday prayers at Denmark’s first female-run mosque

Via The Guardian, February 2016:

220px-Islamic_Feminism_Symbol.svgWomen lead Friday prayers at Denmark’s first female-run mosque
Imam of Mariam mosque in Copenhagen says aim is to challenge patriarchal structures and inspire other women

A little bit of history was made in Copenhagen this week with the first Friday prayers led by two female imams, marking the official opening of the first female-led mosque in Scandinavia, and one of only a handful worldwide outside China.

More than 60 women crammed into the Mariam mosque above a fast-food outlet in a city centre street. Volunteers had worked late into Thursday night to put the final touches on the premises’ refurbishment. Cream curtains with a subtle mosaic-motif trim had been hung, a calligraphed verse from the Qur’an displayed, flowers and candles arranged.

Sherin Khankan and Saliha Marie Fetteh, the mosque’s two imams, shared the ceremony. Khankan sang the adhan and made an opening speech, and Fetteh delivered the khutbah, or sermon, on the theme of “women and Islam in a modern world”.

Only a passing mention was made of burkinis. To laughter, Fetteh told the worshippers that, according to newspaper reports, there was not one burkini to be found in shops across Europe, after a series of bans in French cities and resortshad prompted Muslim and non-Muslim women to buy them in acts of solidarity.

Read more on Denmark’s first female-run mosque >>

Resources on Women, Religion, and Rights from the UN


Realizing the Faith DividendRealizing the Faith Dividend: Religion, Gender, Peace and Security in Agenda 2030

This report focuses on the role of religious actors and religious considerations in the SDG agenda, particularly as they pertain to gender equality, peaceful coexistence and security considerations. The perspectives, ideas and initiatives discussed in these pages bring together experiences and policy analysis shared from the different realities of Donors, UN agencies and Faith-Based NGOs. The narratives build on and inform policies — required at a time when religion is predominantly viewed as an emerging challenge.


b1e2f580d5f9903ff82457c6bc548cc7Religion, Women’s Health and Rights: Points of Contention, Paths of Opportunity

This white paper looks at the religious arguments around some of the most sensitive and contentious gender-related issues from the perspective of the major faith traditions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. An article noting thisrReport and its launch in Oslo in May, was published in the Huffington Post, penned by one of the key consultants who compiled this for UNFPA and Norad. The article can be found here.