AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL
PRESENTATION OF STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES TO THE MINISTRY OF WOMEN & CHILD DEVELOPMENT
In continuation with the implementation of the Recommendations made by the Expert Committee on Widows constituted by the National Commission for Women, the Supreme Court of India directed the committee to prepare an SOP for the running of Swadhar Homes. Meera Khanna as member of the committee helped to prepare the SOP which was given t the Ministry of Women & Child Development through the Supreme Court of India. The SOP was exhaustive as well as detailed. It aims to upgrade the working of the Swadhar Homes and has given adequate attention to every aspect including registration, admission process, security and safety, nutritional and medical needs, counselling, skill upgradation, recruitment of appropriate personnel, accounting transparency, grant procedures etc.
(Detailed SOP available on the website: www.guild.org)
Expert Committee on the Status of Widows constituted by the Honourable Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India constituted an Expert Committee on the status of widows to work on normative, legislative and institutional interventions needed to better the status of widows in a patriarchal society like India. Meera Khanna was a member of the committee. Over three months, the Committee studied the various researches done on the issue and looked at recommendations that had been made from time to time. The Committee presented their report to the Supreme court of India, detailing the various ways by which widows were discriminated against, marginalised from a socio cultural life and economically deprived. The Committee presented their recommendations based on the premise that the widow should not be forced to go to the system for her rights, but the system should go to her, because it was her entitlement as a citizen of this country to be free from deprivation, discrimination and marginalization. The report also went on to delineate the focus of responsibilities of each Government department at the Centre and state level to implement the recommendations
The report was highly appreciated by the Supreme Court and it has now been submitted to the appropriate ministries.
(Detailed Report available on the website: www.guild.org)
Brainstorming session in partnership with UN Women: National Commission for Women: mandate, challenges and way forward
In the year 2017 the National Commission for Women (NCW ) became twenty-five years old and has matured into a significant entity, ready for an even more meaningful role in the lives of the Indian women. The Guild in partnership with UN Women and the India International Centre organized a brain storming session on the role of the Commission. The time was opportune and right to retrospect on the manifold successes of the Commission, and the perceived gap between aspirations and implementation. In the course of the discussion many dimensions of the commission's role were explored in an effort to review, reinvent and rejuvenate it.
The session was enriched by the views of three Ex Chairs of the Commission: Dr Mohini Giri, Dr Poornima Advani and Ms Girija Vyas. The then present Chairperson Ms Laitha Kumaramanglam despite being unwell joined through Skype. The discussions were enlightening as Dr. Syeda Hameed former Member Planning Commission and NCW, Ms. Rebecca Tavares from UN Women, Ms Padma Seth, Shamina Shafiq, former members of NCW, Ms. Zohra Chatterjee, Ms Beenu Sen, former Member Secretaries NCW, Ms Sujaya Krishnan former Joint Secretary Family Health and Welfare, Ms .Firoza Mehrotra, gender specialist UNFPA, Mr Sudhir Verma, former Secretary, WCD Rajasthan and a host of eminent social activists put forth their views and experiences.
The floor agreed that NCW was a vital and essential body for the protection of women's rights and there was a need to give it legislative and institutional strength as well as political and financial autonomy. The NCW should be at par in status with NHRC, National Commission for Minorities and National Commission for SC/ST. The NCW Act has inherent weaknesses and does not give specific powers for implementation of the mandate.. The need to define women's rights, to strengthen the letter of the law and to legislate the strength of the NCW by vesting it with punitive powers on the lines of other Commissions/ Tribunals was felt.
Further, even though the NCW is an autonomous body, yet the Ministry of Women &Child Development, by virtue of its administrative and financial powers subordinates NCW in terms of its dependence on the government for staff requirements and financial grants. . It was felt that direct budgetary allocation from the Finance Ministry was a must to maintain the autonomy.
Short term: NCW along with inputs from civil society organisations can create rules within the ambit of the law
Identify what can be done within the Act which is not being done. Identify clauses that can be interpreted to enhance the strength of the Commission
Long term: Review and amend the Act
(Complete recommendations available on the website)
Interactive dialogue in partnership with UNIC focusing on :Gender Equality for Gender mainstreaming: Lived experiences in corporate & political careers
On the 7th of March, synchronizing with the International Women's Day, the Guild as every year, organized in partnership with UNIC the interactive dialogue.
The corporate world and the political world are two areas where the gender balance is still only a vision. In the corporate world, despite the capabilities, capacities and talents, women still hit a ceiling in the top jobs. It is changing certainly, but not as swiftly as the women would want it to. In the political world, despite more than one million elected women at the grassroots, women still are under represented both in the Parliament and in the Legislative Assemblies, roots . It is changing certainly, but not as swiftly as the women would want it to. The Journey from the Gram Sabha must lead to the Lok Sabha.
The interactive session saw a sharing of the lived experience on the career path, focusing both on the struggles, the success, and the gap between the aspiration and the reality
(if any) and of course the way ahead.
Chief Financial Officer Tata Telecom Pratibha Advani started her talk with an amazing thought "You are responsible of your own actions". With these words she introduced herself and her achievements, perspectives on working women in corporate world . She felt that they needed to assert more and express themselves more so that everybody values their time and commitment.
Ms. Sushmita Sinha, Vice President American Express talked of own struggles, during creating her identity (career). She faced challenges at every step of life specially in parenting stage but she did not give up and made an unforgettable achievement in this field
The session was ably moderated by Ms. Lakshmi Venkataraman Founder Bharat Yuva Shakti Trust and summed up succinctly as follows
Challenges faced by women which leads to gender inequality.
- The period of career making and the period of reproductivity is same therefore women sacrifice their careers.
- Inequality exists in family where men are considered superior and women are treated as inferior. Ms Padma Seth said, Men always take right decision and women have no right to take any decision.
- Patriarchy is imposed on women at every step of life.
- Identity of a child is recognized by her/his father's name,that itself says everything regarding the status of a woman as a gender.
- Some Recommendations
- Maternity and paternity leave should be extended so that women can manage both responsibilities.
- Work from home should be there in corporate sector.
- Sensitize men for participating in household activities as well. Equality should be there in family where men do not see themselves as superior.
The Guild at the CSW 62nd session in New York
Represented by Meera Khanna, Ranjit Jayanti and Suman Mathur
(both Guild Representatives to the UN)
This year the Guild partnered in two side events and three parallel events
- On 15th March with UN Women as part of the global alliance: The Last Woman First.
- On 14th of March Side event with Government of Egypt and Malawi Algeria and Global Fund for Widows. And the Guild as part of the Global Alliance: The Last Woman First :Widowhood Poverty eradication, economic empowerment and achieving the SDGs
- On 15th March with Widows Rights International and Global Fund for widows WPD, NAWO, Rozaria Memorial Trust, Naserian, NAWO, ADVANCE:. Importance of the Media Especially to Rural Widows: To Ensure Last Woman First.
- On 15th of March with Global Fund for Widows Human Rights Watch, Guild For Service - India, WIDO - Nigeria.: Widowhood: "You Will Get Nothing" and the Poverty Guarantee .
- On 16th March: With Women's Federation For World Peace, International: Engaging the Rural Family: The Vital Role of Education
Presentations were made by Meera Khanna at the parallel events including the one organised by the Widows Powered in Development on 16th March on Widows.
She was called upon to present the recommendations culled from the interactive
sessions of the UN Women : Leave No One Behind
Due to the more than two decades of advocacy work by Dr Giri and the re invention of advocacy strategies subsequently, widows as a vulnerable group has been mentioned in the CSW Agreed Conclusions.
The Guild's presence at the CSW gave huge dividends in terms of advocacy strength, networking advantages, funding opportunities. And possibilities of new projects.
The Guild today is part of a number of global coalitions like The Global Alliance: The Last Woman First, Everywoman Everywhere
Guild on the Every woman Every where's Expert Committee on Widows and Older Women to work towards a UN treaty on Violence against Women
Everywoman Everywhere is a highly diverse coalition is driven by survivors and practitioners, with over 110 active working group members from more than 70 countries including every continent and major geographic area, operating with a decentralized, regional working group structure. While the work initially emerged from research with the Initiative on Violence against Women at the Harvard Kennedy School's Carr Centre for Human Rights, the coalition-based campaign is structured from the grassroots up.
Meera Khanna was invited to be a member of the Expert Committee on Widows and Older Women to work towards creating the draft treaty to prevent violence against women. She was also on the drafting committee and helped to write the section pertaining to older women. The spade work has move up from drafting to creating the space and the ground swell of support for the treaty across the globe so that international organisations and state parties need to accept and work towards the treaty
South Asian Regional Workshop: "Together We Can"
South Asian Network for Widows's Empowerment in Development(SANWED)
The establishment of SANWED as a SouthAsian body for issues related to widows andwidowhood is expected to help South Asiangovernments and the international communityrealized the key role of widows as valuable
"social capital" in peace, development andequality. It is further expected that networks willexpand to develop and include establishing andnetworking with widows's empowerment groupsin other regions of the world to prioritize the
issues of widowhood, in the context of reducingpoverty and violence to women, promotinghuman rights, justice and peace, in national,
regional and international agenda.
SANWED was established after the international conference on widows held in New Delhi under the auspices of the Guild. The mission of SANWED is to enable widows to become collective AGENTS OF CHANGE in the South Asianregion by bringing together the NationalChapters of SANWED under one umbrella. The Guild while being one of the initiators is also the Indian chapter of SANWED in India
On the inaugural session, Meera Khanna representing the Guild made an impassioned call to the South Asian communities which prescribes white as the dress code for widows. She said:
Red is the colour of love of passion, emotions core to our womanhood, red is the colour of fertility, core to our motherhood. Red is the colour of energy and strength of power core to our personhood. When the colour red is the primary colour of our personalities as women as mothers as wives as lovers, who can deny this to us? No scripture, no tradition, no custom, no social binding can deny us red, can deny us colour. Whether we are women wives, mothers or widows.
So from this platform I would like say my sisters of South Asia, wear red and live life fully nobody can deny you the colours of life and I hope my voice reverberates into every home in South Asia.
The conference was attended by delegates from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Nepal and Bhutan. Following were the outcomes of the discussion inplenary for consensus building commitmentsfrom SANWED members for way forward:
1. National Chapters should play an important role to operationalize the full functioning of SANWED.
2. It is necessary to find strong linkages between SANWED member organizations and international partners to mainstream issues of widowhood in every development agenda.
3. SANWED has been functioning as loose South Asian Network since its establishment. The network members should plan and get it registered and institutionalizes it as organization at regional level.
4. Issues of widowhood also needs to be addressed in UN instruments namely SDGs CEDAW, and BPFA and the 1325 and 1820 resolution of the SC. There is gap since issues of widowhood are not directly addressed in these instruments.
Oral Statement on Widows at the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women
The Guild gave valuable inputs and endorsed the oral statement on Widows presented by Heather Ibrahim, Global Fund for Widows at the 62nd session of the Commission in the Status of Women in relation to the Priority Theme "Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls."
While focusing on the alarming rise in the numbers of widows across the world, the statement asked governments to comply with Article 5 of the CEDAW and SDG Goal 5, and use all available means to modify institutionalized cultural, financial, and bureaucratic barriers that discriminate against widows. In the context of rural widows, this refers to the protection of a widows's rights to inheritance of land and valuable assets.
It also asked the UN and member states to Fill the Data Gap focusing on marital status inthedisaggregated data; to develop a CEDAW General Recommendation on the rights of widows; and Select WIDOWHOOD as the "Emerging Issue" for CSW 63.