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No longer a 'domestic' problem
UN report makes violence against women a global concern

By Ellen Snortland

"We're tired, we're cranky and we don't like the government. We're tired, we're cranky and we don't like the government." Come on, say it loud! "We're tired, we're cranky and we don't like the government!"

That marching chant makes me smile every time I think of it. It's so, well, cranky and true. We - Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority - used it as we marched in the nation's capitol in the late 1980s for yet another pro-choice march. I chant it whenever I start to lose steam for the fight for women's rights and responsibilities. It reminds me that nongovernmental organizations are vital to making government work for everyone. So if you see me somewhere muttering and marching, that's probably what I'm saying, either out loud or under my breath.

Speaking of "marching," March is Women's History Month, and aptly enough I am in Washington, DC, as I write this at the National Council of Women's Organizations annual conference. NCWO is a coalition of more than 230 women's NGOs that represent, by conservative estimates, approximately 11 million women all over the nation. These so-called "special" interest groups actually represent everyone because, really, who isn't related to a woman or two?

These NCWO groups cover workplace and economic equity, reproductive rights and justice, affirmative action, domestic and global human rights, media, technology, political participation, livable wages, equal pay and retirement security. They meet during March precisely because it's Women's History Month and lobby Congress so we can continue to work on making history through legislation. These NGOs are "Thinking Globally and Acting Globally."

Meanwhile, in Southern California, the Soroptomists, Zonta, the American Association of University Women and the Business and Professional Women convened an all-day conference on March 12 titled "Ending Violence Against Women: Making It Happen in Los Angeles," largely due to the publication of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's global report on violence against women.

Julie Meyers, president of Soroptomist International of Los Angeles, wanted to make sure that the United Nations report got the local attention that it deserves, so she pulled together an NGO coalition to pressure local government policy makers to commit themselves to ending violence against women and making it a front-burner issue.

The UN report essentially makes ending violence against women a global priority for the fastest and best route to social and economic development for all people of both genders. The report makes history because traditionally there's been a disconnect between basic human rights and women's rights. Indeed, beating a woman is no longer a "domestic" problem that stays hidden in her home but a human rights problem. The report concludes that violence against women is a key cause for underdevelopment at every level - in families and communities, nationally and internationally.

When you consider that one in three women is beaten, coerced into sex or abused in her lifetime, freeing half the world's population from violence is a task that must be taken on locally to impact it globally. (To read the full UN report, go to

Ellen Snortland teaches a writing workshop in Altadena, click here for details.

Pasadena Weekly: 3/13/08

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