31 Mar A Tale of Two UN Side Events
March 31, 2016
Have Courage and Be Kind: A Tale of Two UN Side Events
We hit the floor running last week, as the second week of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) began. We were getting ready for a three-hour Side Event presentation co-sponsored by United Families International, Universal Peace Federation, Howard Center, and the UN Missions of Honduras, Indonesia, and The Gambia. The event was entitled, “Toward a Sustainable Lifestyle: Women Empowered and Family Strengthened,” and early Monday morning our UFI team was holding posters at strategic places throughout the UN.
As people walked by, they often slowed down to read our event poster. One group from the Middle East stopped and asked, “Is this about the family?” “Yes, we answered, “It is about strengthening families.” They asked, “But what do you believe a family is?” We answered, “We believe that a family is a mother and father who are married and raise their children.” “Yes!” the couple exclaimed, “This is what we believe! We want to see this!” and they hurried towards our room.
In another hallway, a silver-haired American woman came closer and read the poster. She cocked her head and asked, “What exactly will you be discussing about women and families?” We answered, “Well, for example, strengthening women in their roles as wives and mothers.” The woman gasped in alarm, threw both of her hands hands into the air, and cried out, “Oh no, I don’t agree with that messaging!” and she exited the scene as quickly as she could.
We just smiled. We’ve learned to expect the unexpected at the UN.
UN Side Event #1 “Women Empowered and Family Strengthened”
Inside the room, every seat was full, and some people were standing or sitting on the floor. No one moved for three hours. They were hungry for the truth about families!
The Hon. Fatou Mbye, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of The Gambia gave the opening speech saying, “If the family is strengthened, women are empowered.” Fanta Bai Secka, director of Department of Social Welfare of The Gambia, followed by stating, “The family develops society.”
The four panelists included Jason Carroll, Ph.D, of Brigham Young University, and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Melissa Moschella, Ph.D, of the Catholic University of America, Nandi Bengu of the Women’s Federation for World Peace, and Timothy Rarick, Ph.D, of Brigham Young University-Idaho.
Dr. Carroll presented rich research showing the negative consequences ofdelayed and re-sequenced marriage, population decrease, and the fragile nature of cohabitation. “The family needs to move to the center of the discussion,” Dr. Carroll urged.
Dr. Rarick discussed the many ways daughters need fathers who are actively engaged in their lives, and said the fatherlessness trend has a ripple effectacross countries and generations. Dr. Rarick’s powerful call for Dads to “come home” touched many hearts in the room.
Nandi Bengu shared a powerful father-daughter experience where instead of whipping her, her father wept and told her he loved her. Realizing her father’s love for her changed her life.
Dr. Moschella’s presentation affirmed that parental rights do empower women, and that parenting is a large part of life for many women. She stated, “Parents have the primary right and responsibility to make decisions for their children, and the State only has an indirect authority over children, and should facilitate parents.”
His Excellency, Mamadou Tangara, the Ambassador of The Gambia to the United Nations expressed his appreciation to all who had spoken. He said he enjoyed listening to the many studies that encouraged the traditional family, and added, “We don’t hear enough of this at the UN.”
After the meeting, audience members rushed towards the panelists, exchanging business cards and asking them to come and speak to their country!
UN Side Event #2 “Violence Against Women”
Fifteen minutes later, another Side Event was ready to begin down the hall. Dr. Rarick and Laura Bunker had been invited to fill in for their speakers who were unable to attend. The title of this event was “Violence Against Women,” and when we entered the room we sensed that we were not among friends. Most of this audience would probably not agree with our approach to family issues. We took our seats and prayed for the best.
After three other panelists presented the distressing plight of women in their countries, Mrs. Bunker presented the link between pornography and sex-trafficking. She pointed out the UK’s solution of making pornography “opt-in,” and presented copies of the “Resolution Calling Pornography a Public Health Crisis” which recently passed in the state of Utah without a single opposing vote. Surprisingly, the audience broke into applause!
Dr. Rarick presented research about how involved fathers protect their daughters from violence. Not only are married fathers less likely than a mother’s live-in boyfriend to abuse or assault the daughter, but having an engaged father in her life protects her from getting into other violent situations in the future. Audience members were nodding in agreement, and some were even blotting tears.
After Dr. Rarick finished his presentation, the chairwoman of the event pointed to Dr. Rarick and said in UN-speak, “Now there’s a real ‘He for She!’” She also encouraged the audience to take a copy of the Resolution, and urged everyone to “make pornography an international conversation!” Afterwards, many people flocked to us for more information.
While a few like our silver-haired American friend are offended by our message, these two Side Events were evidence that many people from every country and background resonate with the truth, and feel drawn to it!
The CSW 60 Outcome Document
In addition to all of the events that United Families sponsored, our team was able to monitor the language and worked to influence the outcome draft for CSW. The negotiations for this year’s “Agreed Conclusions” plodded along with the anti-family forces, early in the negotiations, inserting the usual outrageous and ultimately untenable language promoting abortion (under the guise of “reproductive health”), comprehensive sexuality education, language on sexual orientation and gender identity/Expression (SOGIE) while refusing to allow positive “family” language to be included. The anti-family forces fear of having the entire document rejected – as occurred last year at the Commission on Population and Development – did curtail some of their zeal.
In the end, the results were a mixed bag. We were able to keep out references to: “Comprehensive Sexuality Education” and ‘Sexual Orientation Gender Identity/Expression.” Unfortunately, we were not able to keep out the phrases “comprehensive sexual and reproductive health-care services” and a reference to the need for “emergency contraception” – a term that includes drugs that can cause abortion. But on the other side of the ledger, we were able to insert – and keep – a paragraph that “recognizes the family as a contributor to development…” and additional phrases that emphasized the “well-being of the family.” That is a victory!
Have Courage and Be Kind
During the second week of CSW, we continued our UN Mission Visits, completing a record 29 visits in all! We go to the UN to give international leaders the support they need to stay strong. But there are similar difficult situations back home in our own communities. As one of our UFI friends in California recently emailed, “the same problem that you have on an international level is played out daily at the local level trenches!”
That’s why it is important for all of us to stay connected and stay informed. You never know when you will need to speak up for family values. When it is your turn, just “have courage and be kind.”
And please know that you are not alone.
© This material is copyrighted by United Families International