Tag Archives: UN

VGIF is happy to announce the re-launch of its VGIF @ the UN blog

We would like to introduce you to our VGIF United Nations interns, Meryl Roux and Taysha Milagros Clark.

Meryl and Taysha were involved with VGIF at CSW 57 and after a summer hiatus have continued to attend meetings at the UN throughout the fall.


Meryl is a senior at Manhattanville College, double-majoring in Political Science and International Studies. Working with VGIF is her first experience with a grassroots organization and she is very enthusiastic about gaining insights into the community development issues that she believes matter the most.  Meryl looks forward to continuing to learn more about the internal workings of the United Nations and reporting back to you, here on the blog.

Taysha is a sophomore at Barnard College, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Human Rights with a minor in Sociology. She is enthusiastic about VGIF because she is a firm believer that women’s rights are human rights, and vice versa. She is eager to see these issues discussed in different perspectives, and enjoys the work she is doing to help VGIF better the lives of not only women, but entire communities.

Taysha and Meryl will be representing VGIF at the UN through May, including as VGIF delegates at the 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March.  They receive support from the program director at the VGIF office, and in biweekly UN discussion meetings with Michaela Walsh of the UN Committee.

The many human rights issues discussed at the UN include violence against women, poverty, gender equality, literacy, maternal health and child mortality —these are some of issues that VGIF address in its grants program for women and girls in developing countries. As representatives of VGIF, the interns are encouraged to “make their voices heard.”  They are learning to be leaders engaged in improving the lives of women and girls worldwide, so listen for their voices in the coming weeks.


VGIF’s President Eileen Menton’s statement at the thematic debate on theme 3 ”Global partnership for development in the context of the post-2015 development agenda”


Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund’s President Eileen Menton presented a statement at the thematic debate on theme 3 ”Global partnership for development in the context of the post-2015 development agenda”

 VGIF was honored to be asked to speak at the UN on Monday during the special high-level meeting of ECOSOC with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development concerning “Global partnership for development in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.” 

New York, April 24, 2013 – The Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF) delivered a statement to the United Nations thematic debate on theme 3 “Global partnership for development in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.” Among the participants were high level experts, dignitaries, and representatives from civil society. The other non-government speakers were Ms. Bhumika Muchala a Senior Researcher at the Third World Network and Ms. Mahinour Al-Badawi, a Senior Researcher at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights. VGIF urged that the UN and the development community bring small NGOs and Women’s organizations into the process and that greater emphasis be placed on meeting MDG3 (Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women), in addition to MDG8 (Global Partnership for Development).

“We recognize the strides made in the MDGs and that three important targets on poverty, slums and water have been met. Nevertheless, considering that over three billion people still live on less than $2.50 a day, that 22,000 children die due to poverty every day, that more than 100 million children of primary school age are out of school, and that women continue to be underrepresented in the formal economy and in national parliaments, we are still far from achieving most of the MDGs by the 2015 deadline. The 2012 Global Food Policy Report of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reveals that almost 55 percent of the reduction in hunger from 1970 to 1995 can be attributed to improvements in women’s status in society. Given the demonstrated effectiveness of the advancement of women and girls on achieving such development outcomes, we must redouble our commitment to support them to achieve their full potential. This involves prioritizing MDG 3 alongside the other seven goals. MDG 8, though one of the most crucial levers affecting the success of all the other MDGs, is one of the least developed. The post-2015 development framework should give utmost importance to identifying, developing and implementing strategies to promote global partnerships for development in the context of the post-2015 development agenda,” stated Eileen Menton, VGIF President.

Other VGIF recommendations included: implementing an all-inclusive multi-stakeholder approach at every stage, hearing the voices of smaller NGOs, promoting opportunities that build capacity of grassroots NGOs, developing and fostering partnerships in education and technology, leadership opportunities, local food production, and women’s economic empowerment. Partnerships in and between governments, the private sector and civil society will uplift the most vulnerable and reach those needing the most help.

For more than 40 years, VGIF has partnered with grassroots organizations to empower women. This year, VGIF funds will build a much needed Physics and Biology laboratory at a girls’ school in a remote part of India and provide high quality science education materials developed by the North Carolina School of Science to girls and teachers in Zanzibar. VGIF is identifying opportunities this year in Ghana, India, Kenya, and Zimbabwe to promote sustainable community development through nutritional gardens. Other VGIF funding will promote women’s empowerment through the political and legal frameworks within a particular country. VGIF is funding training for 40 widowed women in farming technology and women’s legal right to property ownership, as recognized in Kenya’s new constitution. VGIF also is funding enhancements in the informal economy, through a variety of projects such as Tilapia farming in Ghana and quilting skills in Mongolia. Partnerships like these will ensure that MDGs 3 and 8 are closer to reality and the new Post-2015 goals bring equality and empowerment to women worldwide.

The statement can be found here

Contact  VGIF:  Staci Alziebler-Perkins 212-213-0622

About VGIF

The Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF) provides small grants for grassroots projects that empower women and girls in developing countries. VGIF has supported women in developing countries through economic empowerment, community development, health and nutritional support, literacy and leadership training, educational seminars and workshops, and science and human rights education through over 400 successful projects in over 70 countries.

For more information about VGIF go here: VGIF or on Facebook or on Twitter @VGIF

CEDAW: Plenary Session for Bulgaria

Soyeon Kim, UN Representative

On July 12, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women held a plenary session for Bulgaria. The Bulgarian delegation addressed issues including Roma women and girls, gender equality, and crimes against women.

On July 11, Bulgarian NGOs addressed CEDAW with concerns for women in Bulgaria. NGOs expressed multiple legal issues that do not adequately address women’s issues, including how laws for women remain vague, how the Anti-Discrimination Act does not specifically cover sex discrimination or gender-based violence, and how domestic violence has yet to be recognized as an additional crime. NGOs had claimed that there are still an insufficient shelters for victims of domestic violence, citing that one in four women are victims of domestic violence, and Bulgarian advertisements use stereotypes of women and promote prostitution. NGOs had also noted that unlike many countries in Europe, Bulgaria society still does not address paternal roles in families.

Ambassador Stephan Tafrov and the Bulgarian representatives reported that women’s issues are becoming more prominent in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian government created the Council for Equal Opportunity for Women and Men in 2004, and the Council of Ministers focuses on gender equality by partnering with government agencies, NGOs, and businesses. The Bulgarian National Assembly also created the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, which deals with the rights of women, fights discrimination against women, and ensures that all legislation about women is discussed and conforms to the Convention. For example, laws have been implemented regarding crimes against “sexual morality”, or the use of sex services. Judiciary and law enforcement departments receive legal training twice a year to increase awareness of the Convention The Bulgarian government has implemented municipal councils for gender issues and a national strategy for the promotion of gender equality that was ratified in 2008 and will continue into 2015; this strategy falls under the UN’s Laws of Discrimination against Women. Currently, transborder and national human trafficking is illegal, and transnational trafficking has a “separate and severely punishable composition.” Despite pressure for women and NGOs, Bulgaria has yet to ratify the laws recommended by CEDAW resolutions and still does not have laws regarding violence against women. The perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence can be released from jail if he marries his victim, and marital rape and sexual harassment only remain acts of discrimination.

The Bulgarian delegation noted that women have obtained more prominent occupations. In the business sector, there has been an increase in female leaders, and Bulgaria aims to gain at least 30% female presence overall. There has also been a 41.5% increase of female agricultural entrepreneurs. Military laws against women have been repealed. There has been an increase in awareness about trafficking in the media, which is controlled mostly by women. However, CEDAW noted that only five of Bulgaria’s 40 missions are run by women, and only 11% of women overall hold the position of “minister”.

The Bulgarian National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues asks for the integration of the Roma to combat human trafficking and prostitution. 22% of Roma women have not completed elementary education, are illiterate, or never attended school. There are more school drop-outs for economical, social, psychological, pedagogical, and ethno-cultural reasons, including early marriages in girls as young as 12 years old. However, there is an increasing percentage of Roma against marriages before the age of 16. To promote education about marriages, Bulgaria is working on the integration of young Roma girls through local projects integrating education and equal job opportunities. In January 2012, the Council of Ministers adopted a national plan for the education of young girls and Roma including education in health, culture, media, ethnic integration, and discrimination; the plan will end in 2020.

Bulgaria is still attempting to change the stereotypes of women, especially in rural areas, where priorities include addressing domestic violence and changing the social norm. The Bulgarian representatives stated that prejudice against women originally started in primary and secondary education via textbooks, which undervalued the role of women in history and often portrayed women to have more home-related occupations. The Bulgarian representatives noted that the government has distributed material to schools and teachers about how to approach gender-related issues and gender mainstreaming into education. Currently, NGOs and the Bulgarian government are attempting to find equal opportunities for women and men in Southeast Europe, albeit through separate efforts. NGOs preventing early marriages have been using funds from the European Union.

On July 27, CEDAW noted Bulgaria’s improvements towards ending discrimination against women. To improve women’s rights and laws regarding violence against women, CEDAW recommended that the Bulgarian government continue to raise awareness on women’s rights, adopt a gender-equality law, ensure all acts of sexual violence are investigated with all the perpetrators persecuted and sentenced, specifically criminalize domestic violence and marital rape, ensure sufficient number of shelters available to domestic violence victims, and provide support for NGOs that are offering shelter and support. To improve working conditions for women, CEDAW also recommended that Bulgarians narrow and close the wage gap between men and women and encourage men to share parental responsibilities, including enabling paternity leave. To improve the integration of the Roma, CEDAW recommended that the Bulgarian government provide aid to victims of human trafficking and tackle the root causes for school drop outs among the Roma. It is expected that at the next plenary session for Bulgaria, these issues will have been addressed and improved on.

At CSW56: “Nothing about us, without us.”

By Charlotte Lorick, VGIF UN Representative

It has been an eventful CSW56 Conference thus far, featuring inspirational and oftentimes eye-opening talk on rural women’s rights. Amidst the discussion about gender equality in rural communities, there has been an underlying buzz of concern among attendees. Despite the fact that an estimated 4,000 women from across the world have made it to the conference, some are concerned that many women’s voices are still not being represented. According to Bathabile Dlamini, Minister of Social Development in South Africa, their voices may be the most important of all.

At the Socialist International Women (SIW) Side Event on Thursday, hosted by the Permanent Mission of Italy, Dlamini shared her views on the situation of rural women in South Africa. Much of her discussion focused on the many problems that rural women are facing in her country, including patriarchal cultural practices, little access to leadership positions, and inadequate control over their own resources. The last point she made was most notable of all – she expressed her concern that many of these women are incapable of sharing their personal stories with the world. She feels that the very women that this conference focuses on have little impact on the diplomatic process at the UN and have very little power to change their situation. As she put it, “We all have come here to New York and left most of the rural women at home. We are talking about their futures and well-being and they are not even included in this discussion.” I have heard similar concerns at some of the other meetings, complaints that many women were denied a VISA, or that many simply do not have the funds to make the trip. She then went on to say that the women who do manage to make the trip to New York have faced some challenges. “We are traveling so far and yet many events have no translation and we do not have access to the rooms where decisions are actually being made.”

She appealed to the NGO community, the international community, and the UN member states to rethink the current system. NGO members have not come here just to talk. They have come to New York seeking change, and to improve their lives and the lives of the millions of women they represent. The time has come for action. We all know the problems. We all know the solutions. Now it is a matter of political will and getting the governments to implement the necessary changes. To accomplish this, to encourage government action, and to ensure that the right decisions are made, it is important that politicians hear from the rural women who need their help. Or as Dlamini so rightly concluded, “Nothing about us, without us!” We now must ask ourselves: How can we, as individuals and NGOs, ensure that action is taken and that we carry her message over into CSW 57?