By Katri Jussila, YWCA of Finland. Katri recently attended the 57th CEDAW Convention, Geneva, Switzerland below she shares her reflections.
The YWCA of Finland’s board afforded me the wonderful opportunity to observe the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW between the 17th – 20th February, 2014 in Geneva.
It was a week of learning experiences for me and it was also a dream come true. I had a dream that one day I would get an opportunity to see the UN’s activities in practise. However, I did not know that the day will come so soon. Some might call it lucky but I prefer to use the word Guidance. I was so excited about the week that I prepared by reading the Finnish government report and the non-governmental organizations, NGOs, shadow reports, but I was still excited by what awaited me.
On 17th February, the first session, I attended was the session where NGOs of the reporting country gave their opinion of their country’s greatest barrier to women’s human rights. On Wednesday, the day before the Finnish government was due to meet with the CEDAW committee; there was a lunch briefing with the NGO representatives and members of the CEDAW committee. It was a very interesting conversation as the CEDAW experts got the opportunity to ask questions to the NGOs on questions they had relating to both the reports from the governments and the shadow reports. The NGO representatives also had the opportunity to share any additional information with the experts. What was even more amazing to me was that out of the 23 member expert committee, there was only one man and he was, Finnish – Mr. Niklas Bruun.
On the 20th February, when the Finnish delegation met with the CEDAW experts, my expectations were really high and the day proved to be very interesting. It was amazing to know that many people class Finland as one of the happiest countries in the world, but yet still there are so many human rights issues we still face, especially against women.
In my small country there are many cases of violence against women and I agreed with the experts when they stated that the Finnish government does not recognise this as a big enough problem. They found it to be a trend to use language which neutralises the topic. Violence against women and has been replaced by the use of terms such as violence in a close relationship.
There was also a lot of mention of women in minority groups being discriminated against, for example the immigrants’ women and women with disabilities, as there is no data available on these groups of women. Women also continue to earn less than men for doing the same work.
The Committee also noted that Finland over the years has been a great example to other countries on gender equality, for example women gained the right to vote in 1906, and many high positions have been and are held by women such as Presidents, prime ministers and ministers of finance. But still there are a number of cases about women´s human rights that have remained unchanged for a long time.
I anxiously await the Committee’s recommendations to our country and how these recommendations will be put into practice before the next CEDAW report four years from now.
There were also many nice things I enjoyed about my trip to Geneva; I had the opportunity to get to know the work of the World Office and I had the opportunity to meet with some great people: Marie -Claude, Sharon, Khalea and Lindsay. I want to say thank you all and to all others who I had the chance to meet!