STATEMENT TO THE UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN 17 MARCH 2015

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CHICAGO NETWORK BOARD MEMBER LUCINA KATHMANN PRESENTED THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT TO THE UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN 17 MARCH 2015 NEW YORK CITY

PEN International Statement to the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

PEN International is the largest and oldest worldwide association of writers, with 149 centers in over 100 countries. Our Women Writers Committee works directly with women writers around the world to promote literature and free expression for women everywhere. We welcome this opportunity to address the CSW on the implementation of the Beijing Platform and emphasise that its concerns are essential to sustainable development. Gender equality, the empowerment of women, and the human rights of women and girls must be a central priority in the post-2015 development agenda, both as an important end in itself and as an essential means to obtaining every development goal.

One of the most significant advances towards gender equality since the Beijing Platform is the increase in educational enrolment of women and girls. In many places, however, the goal of universal primary education has not been achieved, especially for girls. In even more places, education is not available in the students' mother tongue, increasing the intersectional marginalization of the most vulnerable groups. PEN’s Centres, including those in Malawi and Guinea, work closely with rural women to promote mother language education as a means to increase the quality of education and the number of girls and women who can access education. We are deeply concerned that the world’s most marginalised women and girls are being left behind on the educational platform and as such we advocate for the inclusion of mother language education in the post-2015 SDG agenda.

With increased access to education and literacy, more women writers are entering the media. Unfortunately with their increased visibility, this advancement has also made women writers increasingly vulnerable to violence, jailing and harassment. In 2013 our records showed 130 women journalists worldwide were attacked for their work. In 2014 this number was surpassed in the first six months. This year for International Women's Day PEN featured three emblematic cases of women journalists imprisoned for their work: Khadija Ismayilova in Azerbaijan, Gao Yu in China and Sanjuana Martínez Montemayor in Mexico.

PEN is also concerned about the specific targeting of women through online harassment Women writers receive three times more online abuse than their male counterparts. Such attacks usually do not address the content of their articles but degrade the journalists as women. Existing protection measures for women journalists and women human rights defenders are limited, and this is particularly true in the case of online harassment, where perpetrators are easily disguised.

In light of these challenges, PEN recommends that the post-2015 development goals include increased participation and access of women and girls to quality education, in particular mother language education along with specific provisions for the protection of women human rights defenders and journalists.

We thank you for this opportunity.