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Day 5: Cross Your Fingers for Egypt

Day 5: Cross Your Fingers for Egypt

March 5, 2010

By Joshua James

Right now I'm sitting on a retro brown chair in the basement of the UN building, waiting for an event to end. Originally I sat down to finish a blog or two, but got a little distracted.

The first distraction came when a woman from Mozambique passed by.

"Are you getting Internet?" she asked.

I nodded, "Yep."

She set her bag on the vinyl brown couch next to me and pulled out a tiny, tiny laptop. She sat down and leaned towards me, holding the laptop over my lap. "The wireless is not working," she said.

This story had the perfect beginnings. The opportunity to build a great bridge over ethnic divides, to help a stranger in need.

I took the computer and began making my best effort to fix it. I was pretty sure from the start that my noble effort would end in disappointment, but I tried to be as confident in me as she was.

After finding the one option I thought could be the problem (and it wasn't), I explored her desktop as if I knew exactly what I was doing (of course I didn't). After a few minutes I finally admitted I couldn't help.

"I will take it to the embassy," she told me.

During my lackluster search for the fix we started some small talk, the same kind that starts almost every conversation here: "What organization are you with?"

In Mozambique, she started a radio show that discusses women rights and equality (makes sure to check it out). She's a social entrepreneur! I thought that was cool too.

I told her about UFI and we exchanged information (the official UN farewell).

After my conversation with my friend from Mozambique, I found Marcia to my side, also struggling with her wireless. Again, I feigned my computer skills. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), I found no solutions. The only help I could give was finding Dell's customer service number (which wasn't easy by the way).

I went back to blogging.

Moments later, two jolly African women started laughing near by (how could I not give them my attention?). Conversation ensued and soon laughter filled the hall.

After the usual questions I found out that they were from Benin. Ever heard of it? I hadn't either. It's a small country in Western Africa wedged between Nigeria, Niger, and Togo. They were both elected officials in their country and were sent to CSW to represent the women of Benin.

At the end our delightful conversation, you would never guess what happened. I told them about UFI and we exchanged information (surprise!). They liked what I had to say, but they wanted the information in French (their native language). I committed to write them a letter in French (I know, I'm crazy).

After goodbyes, I went back to blogging...for a little bit.

I was soon interrupted when a dignitary man sat next to me. He had just come from the conference room I was working next to so I had to ask him what was being said in there.

"There a lot problems happening to women," he said, "but not too many to men."

We laughed at the singularity of the experience (you know, being men at an international women's conference).

As the conversation continued, I noticed a big, red "D" on his name tag (that means delegate or "don't you wanna be my friend?"). Delegates are the people that negotiate the UN documents! We need them on our side.

Mr. Muhammed was his name. He came from Egypt, a fact that fascinated me. Thankfully, he was very willing to describe his country to me. Eventually I led the conversation to politics (I mean, we were at the UN). I asked him about his country's position on the family, but an answer never seemed to come.

It wasn't till a few minutes later that he told me, "I only deal with the money." I laughed to think how excited I was to talk Egyptian politics when he was so adverse to them.

The topic went back to his country.

After telling me a little about Egypt's rich, 6,000 year history, and my explanation of UFI, he said I should meet the head Egyptian delegate. He told me that she's the one in charge and described her by comparing her to an ancient Egyptian king, "She is strong," he said.

So now I'm waiting. Waiting to meet the delegate reminiscent of ancient monarchy. I'm excited, but I'm getting a bit tired. I'm waiting though because UFI and the cause of the family needs as many allies as possible, and Egypt would be a great one to have.

Till I meet her, cross your fingers for Egypt.

Day 4: The Shifty U.S. Delegation

Day 4: The Shifty U.S. Delegation

March 5, 2010

By Brenda Sanders

I went to the meeting of the week, the "US Briefing" only to find Peggy Kerry (John Kerry's sister) guarding the door. She said that I had to wait outside the building until 1pm and they would come and get me.

She was very put off and asked how I even knew about the event. I told her that I had signed the LIST at the last briefing so I could attend.  I went outside and waited.  There was no line or other people waiting.  After a time I figured I had been duped so I went in and asked another person about the briefing and she asked me what organization I was with and my name.  I told her and she said that I was not on the LIST to be admitted.  I told her that I had signed the LIST.  "Well I can't find you anywhere," she replied.  I asked her if they were not letting people in that were on the LIST.  (She couldn't say no, because it would have been against the rules).  She apologized quickly and said, "of course you can go in".

I went into the meeting where the women were all conversing with one another.  As more women entered they were called by name and known by the others in the room. How did all these people get on the LIST?  They weren't at the meeting where we signed the LIST.  Why was my name and others from pro family organizations left off the LIST?

Merle Frank, the ambassador to CSW was there.  Susan Rice, also an ambassador came in (with body guards) and told of the great work that she and Obama are doing for women and girls in the US as well as around the world.  Tina Chan, of the Office of Public Engagement from the White House spoke.  She told of how they are working hard to ratify the CEDAW treaty. She spoke of many other government programs that she and Obama are working on to promote the empowerment of women and the girl child. I won't list them because it might make your stomach feel like mine.

We were told that Hillary Clinton will be at a Briefing the next Friday and if we wanted to be in that meeting we would need to sign the LIST.  Here we go again.  Peggy Kerry mentioned that the names and emails on the LIST would need to be sent to Washington to get approved and she would have to see if we are allowed in. OK,  I see the writing on the wall.  It's not that I am a criminal or anything.  I did get a photo radar ticket awhile back.  But then I am pro family, patriot, lover of the constitution person.  I'm pretty sure I won't make the LIST>

I came back from the meeting and opened my email to find that I had received an email at 11 am from the US delegation.  It said that they were sorry to inform me but the seats for the briefing had been filled and there was no more room.  Remember the Briefing was at 1:30 pm.  I had just been at the Briefing and there was extra room. Was I really living in the home of the free and the land of the brave? Or is this even happening?  Someone wake me up!

Day 3: Mocking the Real Questions

Day 3: Mocking the Real Questions

March 4, 2010

By: Shellie Baird the Intern

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This afternoon Heather and I attended a CSW side event. We heard IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation) talk about youth led sexual & reproductive rights advocacy. The panel consisted of (from left in the picture) a translator, a man from Mexico, a woman from Tunisia, a physician from Morocco who looked like she was 15 (she was actually 34), a lady from Washington D.C. and a woman from Barbados.

The room was jam packed, at least double the number of people the fire code allows. Dozens of women were sitting on the floor or standing in the back. Arriving 30 minutes early we were barely able to get seats. The panelist (sorry I didn’t get names) from Washington D.C. spoke on how sexual orientation is a neutral term. It does not mean gay or straight, its neutral for whoever you happen to be attracted to or dating at the time. There is lots of space for in between. (We approached her for an interview, claiming only to be students, but she didn’t buy that for a second and wouldn’t set up a time.)

After each panelist spoke, they opened it up for questions or comments. They wrote five to ten questions down, and then chose 3 that they wanted to respond to, usually leaving the questions we actually wanted them to answer out.

Some people took the opportunity to get on their soapbox, including one girl from Lebanon. She spoke about how we need to be able to have great sex all the time without worrying about any consequences. Then she said, “Morals like virginity will crumble and good riddance.” She received a round of applause.

Then a young girl stood up to ask her question. “In your opinion does comprehensive sexual education include abstinence?”  Her question (which I really appreciate her bravery for asking) got a mockery of a response. The man from Mexico answered her saying that (paraphrasing) yes it includes abstinence but abstinence is not 100 percent effective. Children need to learn all options and decide for themselves how they want to live without their parents input. And lastly (my personal favorite) that he believes in “abstinence with condoms."

IPPF has and will continue to influence young girls and women to think that abstinence and having morals is worthless. Mainly it is worthless to them as they won’t be receiving a profit from abortion services.

Day 3: A Rabbi, a Rapper, and a Radio Host

Day 3: A Rabbi, a Rapper, and a Radio Host

March 4, 2010

Written by Heather Sanders

This was the title of a side event at the UN CSW.  If that doesn’t prick your interest, it gets better.  Topic of discussion was “breaking the institutional barriers of cultural texts”. The reconstructionist Rabbi, Alissa Wise,a Jewish feminist who has worked for planned parenthood, is reclaiming Jewish tradition supported by quotes from the Bible and using it to push her personal agenda.

In her handout the scripture of Luke 8 was used where a woman had been suffering from an issue of blood and was healed.  The conclusion was this:  “Her healing was the result of her initiative to break the barriers of religious and cultural taboos.  She explored the possibilities and worked out a significant action in the midst of discouragements in the name of sex and gender and prejudices towards the reproductive health issues of women.”

The radio host, Facia Harris, also a feminist is the producer of an all girl radio program in Liberia that allows females to speak out about their issues. No guys allowed!

The rapper!  Well what can be said about Garrett Quinton Braaf, aka “G-Quiunn”?  He engages the art of hip-hop to provide life affirming messages dedicated to the principles of equality.

This was an hour of education for a 19 year old college student that doesn’t get out much!

Meet the Team

Meet the Team

March 4, 2010

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From left to right. Front row: Brenda Sanders, President of United Families Arizona; Heather Sanders, journalist extraordinaire; Joshua James, intern at UFI; Shellie Baird, also an intern at UFI. Back row; Marcia Barlow, UN expert; Michael Duff, President of United Families International.

Take a good look at us. We may not be the best looking crew (I'm speaking for myself), but we're your last hope. Ok, that might be a little extreme--but if you were here--you'd know why I say that (there aren't too many here on our side). You might want to also take note that we're all wearing our priceless badges that we fought so hard for.

This is the team in the basement of the UN building, the place Marcia lovingly calls "the cave." The pro-family coalition has made this their favorite gathering place. In the picture we're sitting on the 'strategy couch' (I made that one up, call me Mr. Witty) where most of the dramatic, decisive decisions (yes, decisive decisions) are made.

Day 3: UFI’s ‘Stay Alive’ Program Promoted at UN

Day 3: UFI’s ‘Stay Alive’ Program Promoted at UN

March 4, 2010

Written by Brenda Sanders, President of United Families Arizona

Patty Liston of Reach the Children gave a wonderful presentation on the Stay Alive program in a side event today at the United Nations CSW. The information was well received and many African woman approached her later to ask how they can get this wonderful educational program in their villages.  United Families International is also a part of Stay Alive.

This side event was a breath of fresh air after attending an event on LBT rights (Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgender) and a caucus with a US Delegate Marge Christie. Marge discussed how the US has not ratified many treaties such as CRC, CEDAW, etc. And that they will not bring them up to congress until they know for sure they will have the votes.  She admitted that the New York Delegates are behind all the NGO's at the UN.  That is not a comforting confession.

This week the NGO's have been put in the most discouraging situations.  After waiting in line for 9 hours to receive our NGO badge and then being told that we are not allowed into the negotiations with the badge we spent the day getting, it starts to smell a little funny.  The next day we waited in another line to get the new badge only to find out after the 2 hour wait that they will not activate this badge until two weeks later.  (After CSW is over)   Are they doing this on purpose or is it all coincidence?  There is more.

This particular US Delegate Caucus with Marge that I referred to was called at the last minute.  Only a handful of women knew it was happening.  I heard another woman talk about it and so I took off to find the meeting.  The officials in the building we were directed to said there was no US meeting in the building.  I was determined to make this event, so I began looking in other possible places.  I went through security at the UN for the 4th time and down the long corridors to find out that the meeting in fact was held back at the first building.  I bolted back and found the meeting room.  Once inside I was told there that only those who signed the role that was going around the room would be allowed into the US Delegation Briefing on Thursday  (which is a big time meeting).  Thankfully I signed my name only to find out later that the time for this "generally open to the public meeting" is not for sure.  It is very vague and the more questions I asked the more confused I became.  Could they tell that I was a pro-family advocate from my face?  I felt like I had a big UFI sign hanging on my forehead.  So the New York Mission is in charge of the NGO's at the UN.  Hmmm.

More insight. Hillary Clinton has been a power house behind the scenes at the UN for many years and lost some power when George Bush became President. But Hillary is back and heading the US Delegation this year. From her own admission, Hillary said, "...it makes me nostalgic for conferences that are held that actually produce results and give us framework for moving forward". I think we are seeing things moving again, but from my experience at CSW, I am concerned about the direction it is moving.

Day 2: Long Lines, Massive Rooms and Comfy Chairs

Day 2: Long Lines, Massive Rooms and Comfy Chairs

March 3, 2010

Written by Joshua James, intern at UFI

I endured some more inhumane line waiting today, this time it was made bearable (actually, enjoyable) by a UN Secretary from the Philippines. He was passionate about family, just like me.

He told me stories from his peacekeeping days in Sarajevo. While he was there he met a woman that was due to have triplets, but the government, community and family were pushing her to abort. He willingly volunteered himself and some friends to adopt the children, but the woman refused.

He left the country a few days after that conversation, only to find out later that the babies were aborted.

“I cried,” he said. As he told me, tears billowed in his eyes like storm clouds.

I couldn’t help but get choked up myself.

Our conversation was cut short when we both scuffled off to receive our new badges. We were able to exchange information, so I hope to keep in touch.

From that conversation I was reminded there are great people within the UN—but that doesn’t make the UN good.

After conquering another line, I was now ready to attend my first parallel event.

A parallel event is usually a panel or lecture series organized by a non-government organization (NGO) in a room somewhere on or near the UN campus.

Parallel events are organized for two main purposes: one is to inform delegates concerning a certain issue, hoping to persuade them to vote in a specific way; and the other is to inform NGOs concerning a certain issue, in hopes to persuade them to advocate for a specific cause.

The information provided at these events gives delegates and NGOs an easy reference for when they are involved in negotiations of a document (tomorrow the first document negotiations will begin, I’ll explain the process and the importance of the process then).

Oh, and (I forgot to mention) CSW parallel events are usually run by the most liberal, anti-family organizations in the world (couldn’t leave that out). Organizations like: Girl Scouts of America (I was surprised too), International Planned Parenthood Federation, Catholics for Choice, the International Lesbian and Gay Association and many, many more.

The events cover just about any issue that may (or may not) be facing the women of the world. Topics range from sexual orientation to maternal health (abortion), religious “freedom” and climate change to downright sexual revolutions.

The parallel event I went to today was on Climate Change and Gender Responsiveness.

The event wasn’t as tantalizing or controversial as I’d hoped. Climate change rhetoric was prevalent through out the presentation, but it was given by cute, old Korean women—it would be pretty tough to debate with them. Not only that, they fed us Korean food at the end. Even if they had been advocating murder of innocent war refugees, I probably would have smiled and nodded. (Note from Shellie: Josh is a terrible person. Don't worry, not all UFI team members will turn to the dark side for Korean Food)

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Here they are. I told you they were cute.

Other members of the team found a little more controversy. You’ll hear from them on the blog—just keep reading.

Continued...

I spent about an hour in the Economic/Social Conference room. It’s a large, well-lit room, with rows of long white tables. I sat at one of the tables in a comfortable brown leather chair that faced the front, where a panel of seven women faced back at me.

In front of every seat there was a microphone and translation machine on the table. The machine itself didn’t do the translating, I know because I could see the translators through windows on the side, but no matter who spoke and no matter the language they spoke—I heard English through the machine (if only I had this machine on the streets of New York!).

The meeting began with a formal presentation about women in politics, then each delegate who chose to, could have the floor for 2-3 minutes. When the delegates spoke, their voice (or the translator's behind the window) is the only voice that comes through the translation machine, and the speaking delegates are featured on giant screens located all around the room.

Most of the time I didn’t know how I should feel, bored or fascinated. It seemed that when the delegates spoke in English, the intrigue faded (there’s no awesome translation machine action) and I’d get really tired (I told you the chairs were comfy, and I didn't tell you the delegate's statements were flat and overstated, but they were).

I was on the verge of leaving (or sleeping), when one delegate got me to sit straight up.

When the chair announced El Salvador would be next, I didn’t think much of it. Even though she was speaking Spanish, which always made things more interesting, I expected more pontificating—I was pleasantly surprised.

The El Salvador delegate started with a story (I love stories). She explained that El Salvador is debating with itself these days. Since the release of the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (I guess CEAFDAW was too much)) document, El Salvador has been disputing whether or not the document should be adopted in their country. In El Salvador, abortion and homosexual marriage are not legal, but the CEDAW document would demand otherwise.

The El Salvadorians are unsure if adaptation of the document would be worth the sacrifice of local values.

El Salvador is facing a problem many nations face. Most of the smaller countries naturally want to be seen as internationally responsible nations by accepting international law. Also, the acceptance of these documents often brings financial aid, something some smaller countries desperately seek.

These documents seem to create an “in-crowd” that countries feel pressured to be a part of, even if they have to sacrifice their morals (sounds like high school to me).

Her story helped me learn for myself that these documents do spread the UN dogma, even to countries that oppose the UN morality.

After the El Salvador delegate finished speaking, I slouched back in my chair. I only sat up straight again as I started making preparations to leave twenty minutes later.

I don’t know how the delegates do it.

Day 2: Who Is Imposing Their Culture On Africa?

Day 2: Who Is Imposing Their Culture On Africa?

March 3, 2010

Written by UFI's Marcia Barlow after visiting an African mission in New York City.

The ambassador was formal and dignified as he welcomed me into his office.*  Not wanting to waste even a moment of such an important man’s time, I immediately presented him with our gift of UFI’s UN Negotiating Guide and proceeded to show him how to use the electronic CD.  He listened intently and I could tell he was sizing up my message; trying to determine which side of the political and policy spectrum I was on.  Quite frankly, I was doing the same with him.

Most countries in Africa are very pro-family, pro-life and conservative, but not all. The formatting of the guide gave him enough clues as to my pro-family position.  Within a few minutes he surprised me with this strong and out-of-context-to-our-conversation statement:  “Our greatest concern as African nations is the influence that the gay rights groups are having on our continent.”

He explained that what he needed is a “report;” he needed information on the strength of the gay rights coalition.  Who are they specifically?  How much money do they have?  Who supports them?  What is their connection to the U.S. administration?  What is their plan for his country and for Africa?  He explained that his colleagues from other African nations have the same concerns.  He noted the “gay rights groups” disproportional influence in his and other African nations.”  He shared his concern that these groups had access to power sufficient to impact international aid and that ultimately his country would be forced to accept and condone “this gay rights thing” or forego critical help for citizens of his country.   He concluded in almost Churchhill fashion:   “We will never, never accept homosexual behavior as normal.  We never have and we never will.  Never.”

With that message ringing in my ears, I left his office and a few hours later ended up in a CSW side-event sponsored by the Council for Global Equality.   I listened with interest as a presenter proceeded to inform the crowd that “Africans by nature are not homophobic.”  She blamed any resistance to gay rights as the work of the “Religious Right” who have recently “infiltrated” these countries promoting “hatred.”   She continued:  “Legal homophobia is being imported into African nations.  There are attempts to silence the voice of ‘progressives,’ but there are thousands of cultures in Africa.  They’re not monolithic and they will welcome us if we can just end the pernicious influence of the Christian Right.”

Hmmm….   I guess my ambassador friend and his colleagues did not get the memo.

*In order to protect my source, I intentionally did not reveal the name of the country whose mission I visited.

Day 1: “Talk About Human Rights Violation!”

Day 1: “Talk About Human Rights Violation!”

March 2, 2010

Written by Joshua James, intern at UFI

After arriving at the much-anticipated UN’s Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, the first day was, well…a little slow.

The United Families team spent almost 9 hours (!!!) waiting to register for the event. Our joints screamed and muscles ached, only relieved by moments of leaning on walls and sitting on ANYTHING that resembled a chair (or a bump). The situation was rightly explained when our new friend from India complained, “Talk about human rights violation, this is slavery!”

As we neared the end of the line, some women walked past us celebrating, holding their gleaming new badge in hand, raised like Olympic medals—the rest of us cheered—jealously.

Once I got my badge, I felt like how I imagine climbers feel after conquering Everest. But, I had to remind myself, "this is just the beginning."

Why We’re Going to the United Nations

Why We’re Going to the United Nations

February 24, 2010

The policies that emerge from the UN set a precedent for law making in most countries of the world, meaning what happens there will eventually find its way into your country, your community and ultimately your home.

Unfortunately, the United Nations is heavily influenced by the most liberal, anti-family organizations in the world. Every year they come to the UN fighting to legalize prostitution, legalize abortion--at all stages, negate parental rights, promote explicit sex education to children and advance homosexual rights.

The family needs a voice. That, is why UFI has made the UN a priority and will be there through all of CSW (Commission on the Status of Women). This page will be a hot spot for honest exposure of the UN over the next couple of weeks. Please, come back often.