One by one they walked up to the podium and, with microphone in hand, used their voice to strengthen the cause of everyone in the room.Â
The University of San Diegoâ€™s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice hosted its fourth annual International Womenâ€™s Day Celebration Breakfast on Friday, March 7.
International Womenâ€™s Day is celebrated on March 8 to honor women for their contributions. This day, and the entire month of March (Womenâ€™s History Month), also serves as an opportunity to promote awareness of horrific ills that still exist in society worldwide and to promote activism to find solutions.
Fridayâ€™s event, titled â€œGlobal Dispatches: Financing Gender Equity for Peace & Justiceâ€ was co-convened by the IPJ, Voices of Women, Womenâ€™s Equity Council, United Nations Association (San Diego), the USD Womenâ€™s Center and the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. More than 150 women in attendance learned about the dangers women face worldwide and listened to inspiring stories on how women work to make a difference.
A short clip from Leading the Way to Peace, a film documentary spotlighting the four 2004 IPJ Women Peacemakers, was shown at the start of the program.Several speakers during the program provided highlights of their recent trip to New York for the 52nd annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held at the United Nations.Anne Hoiberg, chairperson for the United Nations Associationâ€™s Womenâ€™s Equity Council, spoke about the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The CEDAW, adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly, is an international bill of rights for women. According to a link on the CSW Website, the CEDAW â€œdefines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for nation action to end such discrimination.â€Â
Hoiberg said thatÂ more work needs to be done in three key areas â€” ending violence against women, electing more women to office and involving more womenÂ in the peacemaking process.
Erika Lopez, a program officer in the IPJ, talked about the need for increased financial assistance for womenâ€™s programs. She learned about gender audits, which look closely at how much money is being spent on issues and provide key data to monitor programs. She was also inspired while hearing about microfinance as a way to empower women at all levels by the development of small income-generating businesses.
Jane Crane and Shobha Shrestha, both USD students, spoke on issues theyâ€™ve taken on with a personal interest.
Crane studies land grants, especially focusing on African countries that have property issues. In these areas,Â women and their children are often forced to leave land that they haveÂ inherited, as the rule of law is not recognized. These women rarely have somewhere else to live. Crane is planning a future trip to Ghana to work with a land minister to work on solutions to the problem.Â
Shrestha, who works with the South Asia Partnerships-Nepaland, the South Asia Small Arms Network-Nepal, spoke on gun control issues worldwide. â€œOne trillion dollars a year are spent on small arms,â€ she said. Another sobering statement, found on a small card at the tables, was theÂ fact that the United States is, by far, the largest exporter of small arms in the world.
Sara Headden, a graduate assistant for USDâ€™s Womenâ€™s Center, summed up the goal of International Womenâ€™s Day perfectly.
â€œThis is a reminder of how many active voices there are out there,â€ Headden said. â€œYou can feel, at times, that youâ€™re the only one doing something, but there are a lot of people here who are working for the same things we are.â€
For more information about some of the programs affiliated with Fridayâ€™s event, go to:Â