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Thursday, 19 April 2012 10:13

Women working for world-wide justice

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Sister Suzette took part in the international meeting through the Sisters of Charity’s membership of UNANIMA International, whose members comprises 17 congregations of Catholic Sisters whose 17,500 constituents work in 72 countries. The non-government organisation (NG), which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, advocates on behalf of women and children (particularly those living in poverty), immigrants and refugees, and the environment. 

The organisation’s name merges three concepts: anima, a feminine life principle of healing, caring, and nurturing; UN, as we do our work at the United Nations; and UNANIMA, derived from the word unanimous, because we work together with one mind, heart, and spirit.

“The work of UNANIMA takes place primarily at the United Nations headquarters in New York, where we and other members of civil society aim to educate and influence policymakers at the global level,” Sister Suzette said.

“We bring the voices, concerns, and experiences of our members who are educators, health care providers, social workers, and development workers to the United Nations, and in solidarity, we work for systemic change to achieve a more just world.”

The theme of this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women, which was held from 27 February to 9 March, was ‘The Empowerment of Rural Women and their role in hunger and poverty eradication, development and current challenges’.

While the Commission was taking place, NGOS from all over the world hosted parallel events.

“Women from all over the world shared their stories – women and the Arab Spring, indigenous women, survivors, dynamic world-shapers, Nobel laureates,” said Suzette.

UNANIMA International hosted ‘Models of Empowerment of Rural Women: Success Stories':

• Fortunata Msilu described several projects in Tanzania, highlighting the work of the work of Caritas Dar es Salaam in rural Tanzania.
• Michele Morek told the engaging story of Casa Ursulina in Chile.
• Nely Rodriguez gave a powerful presentation about the tomato pickers in Florida.

Sister Suzette said it was wonderful to hear about the determination of these women to bring about a better life for their people, with the presentation from Nely Rodriguez, a highlight.

A tomato picker in Florida, Nely Rodriguez is now an employee of Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), which has been pushing to improve the lives of Florida farm workers since 1993.

In her talk she described the unfair and unnecessary hardships of the typical Florida farm worker, and in some instances, conditions of modern slavery. To try and improve the situation of tomato pickers CIW asked individual companies to increase the rate per pound by 1 cent and pass that onto the worker, only buy from growers who respect workers rights, and include workers at the negotiation table. They targeted one company at a time beginning with Taco Bell. Four years later, Taco Bell agreed to their requests.

Sister Suzette said she was really touched by Nely’s presentation as it showed how they have to be prepared to hang in there for a long time and keep at it.

During her time in New York Suzette had the opportunity to attend the UN’s official World Women’s Day event where Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, was speaking.

“He is a really humble and gentle man,” Suzette said. “He talked about how gender equality and women’s empowerment are always his focus.

“He said few countries have achieved this so there was a need to change men’s and women’s mindsets.”

Another highlight for Suzette was the resolution at the UNANIMA board meeting to engage in an international campaign against coal seam gas mining.

She said one of the catalysts for making this resolution* was information from an Irish board member that the Irish government was considering allowing coal seam gas mining.

“This is a growing issue in many countries around the world. We can do what we can in our own countries but to know we are part of an international campaign gives us encouragement and strength.

“We are always stronger when we work with others; that is one of the great benefits of taking part in an international event like the UN Commission on the Status of Women,” Sister Suzette said.

“And the networking and meeting with inspirational people, inspires me in my work for justice in Australia.”

Caption: Unanima International Board Members meet in New York

 Unanima International Board Members, New York, March 2012

#The UNANIMA International Board Resolution

UNANIMA International, an NGO in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, “collaborates with individuals, groups, organizations, and especially the UN to protect…access to life-giving water (as) an essential right for all life forms.”

As part of that mission, the governing board of UNANIMA International has resolved to speak out against resource extractive methods that are damaging to water, including certain forms of coal / shale seam gas mining (e.g. “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing) until technologies exist that are proven safe to groundwater supplies.

The world-wide issue of groundwater contamination is particularly troublesome now, with the increased pressure for new sources of fossil fuel driving energy corporations to use methods not proven safe for the environment. UNANIMA groups around the world will be using the resolution in their local / regional / national lobbying efforts on water-related issues in their areas. “Think globally, act locally!” You might want to see Jessica Ernst’s resources on http://www.ernstversusencana.ca/news-multimedia/cbm-frac-news