PWESCR’s first annual Leadership Institute in Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was held in Gurgaon, India, from January 23 to January 29, 2011. The venue of this international Institute was TERI (The Energy Research Institute), located 30km south of Delhi. Twenty four women and men from various countries (like Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Colombia, India, Jamaica, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda) participated in this training with the goal to effectively use a human rights framework to drive change and to address structural causes of poverty, discrimination and inequalities.
Day 1 of the first Phase started with identifying some common trends and differences in what women celebrate, what challenges they face, and what aspirations push them forward in their quest for equality of rights and opportunities. An in-depth analysis of the social construct of gender and gender based discrimination provided the space for challenging cultural stereotypes and discussing the role of various formal and informal institutions that either perpetuate or combat these stereotypes. On the second and third day of the Institute, the focus was on poverty and dignity. The myth of feminization of poverty was probed in to, and the question of poverty as lack of capabilities was discussed. This paved the way for a discussion on Globalization and the neo-liberal paradigm on women’s poverty. January 26th was the fourth day of PWESCR’s Leadership Institute, and the day started with remembering and honoring India’s Republic Day. The participants got acquainted with the UN Human Rights system, and learned that one doesn’t need to be an expert to get into the UN. Later, through various activities, aspects of the word PANEL were demonstrated: P for Participation, A for Accountability, N for Non-discrimination, E for Empowerment, and L for Linkage to Human Rights Standards. Day 5 and 6 were devoted to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and exploring opportunities for the use of the ICESCR as well as of the ESCR framework in other UN Covenants to advance women’s rights based on the concepts of equality and dignity. On the last day or Day 7, the participants presented their group assignments on litigating a case on the violation of the right to work of hundred women due to the loss of their poultry farm to a multinational; holding a public hearing on the internal displacement of women; drawing up a public policy for rehabilitation of internally displaced populations in war torn areas; and designing a media campaign for recognition of ‘housework as paid work’.
At the concluding session of the Institute, participants highlighted the emotional experience of their cross-cultural exchange with colleagues from other continents. In spite of specific national and regional contexts, the common features of women’s struggles and of the challenges they face provided the ground for a shared understanding of problems and of the skills required overcoming them. In the next few months, participants will be working on an action plan integrating the knowledge and skills gained in this Phase in preparation of Phase 2 of the Institute to be held in Kathmandu, Nepal, in June.