UN Reform, Women – Grassroots

UN Reform, Women - GrassrootsShift UN Resources and Access to Women & Grassroots.

Searching for proof or agreement to my belief, by suggested answers on the Internet, I posed the question:  “is there a need for UN Reform where the UN supports individual and grassroots level action and activism?” A document on Guidelines for Women’s Empowerment pops up as first of results. I did not get beyond this reference.

Putting aside my expected topics to begin writing that included Women, Movements, New Leadership; or, Guns, Gangs, Governance; or No One Talks of Globalization Anymore; and Leadership as Locally Defined and Asserted across the Globe in Emerging Economies, I consider the myriad examples of activism and social action at the grassroots and individual levels around the globe and how such movements might grow, yield and benefit from direct UN intervention, subvention and supports of myriad kinds.

My memory took me to a visit to the European Union office in Trinidad and Tobago, 2007. There, I asked as an Adviser to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Marine Resources, if they would consider allowing sugar workers and producers access to the millions of dollars they had allocated for sugar industry diversification within the country. The answer was a resounding no based on the structure of such funds and assistance: country to country, government to government; none else need apply.

Whether this sugar example in Trinidad, or in other places of the Caribbean, and farther afield, still; one theme connects these separate stories of conditions and futile ambitions. How conditions might improve; how the lives of millions of people may be enhanced by and with direct access to international resources previously allocated for country to country/government to government levels. For the UN to fit into the bigger picture of making a real difference in the lives of millions of people there is a need for REAL UN Reform. Said reform makes all resources accessible to individuals, NGOs, groups defined by, of and as activists, or as movements or agents of and for the people they represent at the local levels at which lives and struggles are roiled. The times demand and testify to that need.

Let us face it. Individual and grassroots action and activism is often against the mainstream, the status quo, the establishment as we know it. In this day and age and post the World Economic Crisis, I see no better justification for those walls and obstructions to come down and redound to the people. After all, it is the people who built them up. It is now time after that debacle and the obscene enrichment of the few at the cost of the poor, that if the poor want to create change, it should be their money made accessible to them that is amassed in the coffers of the upper echelon.

We live in times when much has changed and much more is in transition for change. Often the end game is unknown. The fact remains that the status quo is not working or has reached its limit. Many have said and written thusly upon the global economic crisis of 2009. Yet, the powers that be, and the global establishment agreed that the current system was too profitable, too integrated and too large to lose and let go, so it was propped up; without reform, without a change of the guard, and without any checks or balances to avert ‘business as usual’. The rich were supported, often with taxpayer packages funded by the poor.

As greater numbers of the world’s poor find their voice, agency and power to mobilize global activism, it is my hope for the emergence of women in a sway against their practiced silence and passivity such as seen in the anti-smelter protest of Trinidad and Tobago led by a Ms. Yvonne Ashby, or the Women famed behind the mass protests of Iran, July 2009, to rise up. There is a need for UN Reform to support such Women and Grassroots efforts at their levels and without intermediaries and middle men/persons.

The UN Reform programs must focus on Women and Children, Empowerment and Grassroots Activism. By providing the means, funds and platforms by which various streams and rivers of change around the globe might be amassed into one. If not one, then to compare notes and integrate elements, experiences and realities of multiple places to make a stronger platform and real voice for real people; A voice that represents billions living in poverty without access either to resources nor representation.

The United Nations recognizes that the “empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health status is both a highly important end in itself and necessary for the achievement of sustainable human development”. In these times, that perspective needs to be turned into reality and continued fine tuning; particularly in an era when many believe the tide has changed and it is a matter of time before a women’s leadership manifests; one not characterized merely from pants to skirts but inherent of different values, politics, interests and associations than the patriarchal Western dominant sociopathic paradigm. From the mass protests around the globe, to the individuals leading and giving voice, several basic elements are demanded within such a framework of reform:

  1. Qualified women must be allowed to attain the helm and reins of power and leadership; that the time of the man-god is over.
  2. There have been a call for the “Bottom of the Pyramid” to be integrated into a new socio-economic-political system, where the voiceless are given greater participation in the decision-making regarding resources, policies and the quality of services, and products that infiltrate their lives and livelihoods.
  3. There is an ever slowly growing but present challenge to interrogate democracy. In many quarters, even in established Western societies like the United States at the 2000 GW Bush questionable presidential elections. People and citizens the world over are beginning to give pause to wonder exactly, what is democracy, what does it look like, what does it allow or accept, what is negated by it or for it, and what would not occur in the presence of true democracy? And in this case, what is it they have been living under and being led by, if not true democracy; what was it? So there is a challenge as to whether we continue with old understandings and practices or we create new systems of governance. This discussion is taking place in both emerging economies as well as developed countries.  In the middle are the places of trauma, brutality and war, where women gathered in small spaces raise these concerns; places like Yemen, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Sudan, Gaza and Liberia;  to mention a few.
  4. The push to confront, manage and survive climate change for everyone, even those who denied the reality, either because of frigid cold, dreadful heat or deluge of water and mud. Yet, it is a fact that women will bear the brunt of this phenomenon as they have withstood all other traumas before.

The question becomes then, how do we support women as they represent the face, the cause, the leadership and the impact of all these factors of change and challenge? How can the United Nations support, fund and provide for us, those who want to give “voice to a new world movement for peace based on justice and development based on equality“?

In 2009, Nicholas Kristoff of The New York Times wrote a book and a series of columns intimating A Women’s Crusade, addressing the plight of women the globe over; as they are subject to violence, their bodies used as tablets and landscapes of war, as political ploys of men; to control their sexuality and reproductive rights, as well as to give them the means by which they wrest control back into their own hands. I believe Kristoff’s Crusade gives further dimension, depth and reinforces this call for the United Nations to create REAL access for women in all UN initiatives.

In this regard, qualified women are to be given the reins by which policy, activism and correction regarding their lives and livelihoods are in their own hands and not in any other; and in the villages and pueblos, the locations where they live not in ivory towers, such as on East River in Manhattan NY, or in financial centers far away from places without clean running water.  Women and Grassroots must be the Twenty-First Century frontier.

I am calling on the United Nations to do what the United Nations wrote and advocated for decades ago:

Achieving change requires policy and programme actions that will improve women’s access to the scarce and valued resources of their societies (particularly secure livelihoods and economic resources), alleviate their disproportionate household responsibilities, remove legal and social impediments to their participation in the public sphere, eliminate the specter of domestic and sexual violence from their daily lives and raise social awareness through effective programmes of education and mass communication.Guidelines for Women’s Empowerment.

The UN Reform must integrate the recognition that such change and action are emerging from those who have been left out of the writing of structures. They are at the margins, excluded.  Reform then would allow these individuals access, with no stalling requirements such as previous experiences, gained support or political platforms. The establishment must not be the definer or sole determinant of legitimacy.

If the United Nations takes that lead, other international organizations and institutions like the European Union, for instance, would not have millions of allocated dollars wasted for political purposes at country level. Individuals and NGOs on the ground across the globe should have access to resources and decision making in their countries, and thus, real power to the people, for the people and by the people. This is the trend and zeitgeist -spirit- of the day. Such access would have probably seen the Trinidad and Tobago Anti-Smelter Movement liaising, planning, coordinating and mobilizing at the international level to bring greater power, effect and stoppage to the government’s plans, and maybe even before hundreds of acreage of untouched forested land since the time of Columbus was struck down, ever destroyed.

My future contributions to The UN Post will follow from this line; flower and grow from this perspective. I am planting the seed at a certain level for the legitimization of Women, New Leadership, Local Realities, Local Solutions, New Movements, Governance, and Globalization that benefits the poor and real people and Emerging Economies. These will be my large rocks, with plenty pebbles and sand subjects in between.

Melise D. Huggins

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