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RESPECT for Women seminar

Thursday 9 September 2004

Global Perspectives Panel

Presentation by Ms Libby Lloyd, President UNIFEM Australia

Good morning, everyone. It is a huge pleasure to be here and to have the chance to talk to you about UNIFEM. We have moved it into the global perspective area of the morning, and I guess it is a good opportunity just to emphasise that I am the President of UNIFEM Australia and this is an Australian organisation really picking up that global connection. It is a significant group of Australians who see themselves as part of the world and wanting to make the links and connections with the activities of UNIFEM globally.

UNIFEM is the United Nations Development Fund for Women. It is a very small agency that sits to the side of the UNDP - the United Nations Development Program. It was established in 1976 following a call from women at the first International World Conference on Women in '75 in Mexico. There was a very, very strong noise and wish that women and women's issues should be represented in its own agency within the UN to use that multilateral strength that the UN brings. It works both within the UN and it works through a series of 17 offices throughout the developing world.

The agenda for UNIFEM is moving forward, and Liz just mentioned the three areas that it has been focussing on over the last 5 years. It is now rearranging its agenda, and it is now specifying four particular areas of importance globally where it works really at a very high level with catalytic involvement working in partnership with non-Government organisations and Governments to bring about change in these four areas.

The first, and the one that is now moving to the top of the agenda, is reducing feminised poverty. This they are doing in many, many ways, tackling it at the higher level, doing a lot of work around migration laws, giving rights to women as they move from country to country to take up work, particularly in the domestic sector. There is a lot of work being done on gender budgets, and there is a very significant South Australian who has been working with UNIFEM globally, Rhonda Sharp, who is also at the Hawke Centre, on gender budgets, looking at the outcomes of the way money is spent in countries as to what outcome it achieves for women.

The second significant area is ending violence against women, which is certainly a common theme from what we've been talking about since last night through today. Women's rights and human rights is absolutely the call for all, and it is the fact that taking women's human rights as an absolute right is the major area in the second thematic group that UNIFEM is picking up. The other part of that is getting men on board. Women's human rights have to be part of human rights, and women can't achieve these without extending it through the whole community.

The third is halting the spread of HIV AIDS, and this is now becoming a huge problem globally. I was recently at a conference in Botswana, followed by some discussions in South Africa. The figure now used in Botswana is one in three people are HIV AIDS infected. It is phenomenal to even contemplate the size of this problem. In sub-Saharan Africa you have now got 3,000 a day dying of HIV AIDS. The pandemic is phenomenal, and women are now getting caught up in this very, very significantly.

Some of the work UNIFEM is doing is working on mother to child transmission and the prevention of mother to child transmission and informing and educating women on how they can prevent their children being born HIV AIDS positive.

The fourth area is achieving gender equality in democratic governance, and UNIFEM Australia is connected in this very strongly in several countries. The countries that UNIFEM has been working with very closely recently are Rwanda, Afghanistan and Iraq, making sure that women's rights are built into the Constitution and progressing women in politics, helping women to understand how the Constitution, how legislation and how policy development works, and giving them the skills and training to be able to contend and stand for politics. So that is on the global level, working across the developing world - many, many examples - and I am very happy to talk to individuals or lead you to further information.

UNIFEM Australia is one of 14 national committees in the developed world that support the work of UNIFEM globally. UNIFEM Australia is probably one of the most successful of those, and I think UNIFEM Adelaide, with its very huge reputation for International Women's Day, plays a very major part in that as well. It is a voluntary organisation. We have about 850 individual members, and every peak women's organisation in Australia is a member. Well, there is a very large number of major women's organisations that are members.

We do three things: we raise public awareness; we lobby and link with Government to increase the contribution and the Government's awareness of gender and development; and we raise funds. All of these go to support projects that we select through discussion with UNIFEM globally and with our membership as to the areas that we see requiring the greatest support and having the greatest link and affinity with Australians.

We have three major activities in a year. International Women's Day, 8th March. Adelaide has peaked the breakfasts each year, I think. This last year they had 1400 women attend a breakfast in Adelaide when Christine Nixon was the keynote speaker. I know there is a stunning speaker planned for next year, and I expect Adelaide will stay in front. Brisbane is coming close behind - 1200. Twelve thousand women around Australia at 50 events attend and support UNIFEM-sponsored International Women's Day functions.

We have started a spring walk program. This started when we were working very closely with a project in East Timor, and the theme that we developed was: contribute $5, walk 5 kilometres, to contribute to the East Timor project, because many women in East Timor are walking 5 kilometres a day to get water. We have raised our contribution, we would like you to give even more, but the walks continue and get bigger and stronger, and I know that you have really started having walks in South Australia.

There are some pamphlets on the table out there if anyone would like to organise a walk. We make them community-based. They are not grand, well organised, large-scale walks - people walking in their own community - and some of the most successful have been when people have dropped a letter in their neighbourhood's letter boxes inviting people to join a walk with them. And some of the most wonderful examples have been that people have walked their 5 kilometres, got fit, come back and had a shared morning tea or some social function and got to know their neighbours, which hadn't happened before, so building community outside Australia and building community in Australia.

We have added a third thing to our agenda in the year. The 25th November is the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. We started last year at very, very short notice; we were something under two weeks. We distributed 10,000 white ribbons. White ribbon is the symbol for the International Day. From as far as an island in the Torres Strait an email came saying, "We would like seven white ribbons." I'm not sure it got there by 25th November, but it certainly got there soon after.

There was such an incredible response to starting this activity that we have taken advantage of having 12 months warning this time and getting ourselves planning. We have started a different style this year. We are wanting to partner with as many organisations as we possibly can. The strength will be when we get all of you and all of your organisations active on this day as well.

We are able to assist with some of the work developing some of the materials, which will be available through our web site. We are very prepared to organise the making of the ribbons. Some will be made in sheltered workshops in Australia and some in Fiji with an economic enterprise that has been established to provide work for women in Fiji as part of our Women in Leadership program that we are supporting.

Our challenge this year is to get men and boys on board. Violence against women is not only a women's issue; it is our communities' issue; and we have been looking for likely and unlikely partners in this area. Our first order for 13,250 ribbons came a couple of months ago from the Victorian Police. Every police man and woman will be given a white ribbon in their pay packet in the week leading up to the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women. I hope we can get this through every State in Australia if we start with the police, and we can work through sporting organisations and others.

Unlikely partners! We have got tremendous support from the National Rugby League. Not all saints, but very, very keen to make a stand and say that violence against women is not their norm. They have come on board and they are offering us support in any way they can. We are working with the National Council of Churches, sporting clubs, any group that will come and join with us, distribute ribbons and make a large statement on the day. We are wanting to know you. Please make contact. We would really like to make this a day that pulls everyone, who sees this as an issue, together to make a large statement.

In summary, I just would like to say that UNIFEM is an organisation active to engage women in the developed world to link with women in the developing world to give them that strength and power and support so that they can bring about the changes in their societies. UNIFEM staff, on the whole, are from the country that they are working in, so we are not looking at a traditional UN organisation, such as peace-keepers and so on. It is coming from within each country and working with the strength in each.

I hope you will join. I hope you will continue to support the International Women's Day breakfast. I know you have to book very early to get in in Adelaide. Thank you very much indeed. We are happy to take questions. Penny has been busy with other things this week, which is the reason that I got to speak, but she is very willing to take the questions as well.

So thank you.

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