Women’s Awareness Month

March is women’s awareness month—as if we need a month to be aware of women. To me, March is the time when we are reminded to think of the challenges women have faced throughout history—even still—and think how you can be part of the solution.

Earlier this month, I was in New York City to join the goings on surrounding the 63rd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (#UNCSW63). It’s the second biggest event on the UN calendar behind only the General Assembly itself.

Nine thousand delegates from civil society registered to attend focused on three main themes before heading into the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, where 25 years ago, nations decided to reach for gender equity.

Sadly, research from various teams around the globe showed that the world was at least 110 years away from achieving gender equality.

The themes this year were social protection, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure to reach gender equality and empowerment of all women.

“What is good for women and girls is good for the whole of society,” said Irish Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, the president of the UNCSW. “No one wins when women and girls are left behind.”

My own work this year has led me to refugee camps where women are being empowered with skills and the knowledge to implement those skills. I have had a chance to discuss the empowerment of refugees with local Consuls General of nations receiving the lion’s share of refugees, and I know how important sustainable work is to the empowerment of women.

Reaching gender equity cannot be done without equitable work with equitable pay. In Greece, refugees are given the right to work, and while there is little work in the camps, there is a digital marketplace that can absorb a remote workforce.

There are organizations that collect electronic equipment from users in developed countries and take them to developing countries where they train women and girls in digital skills that may help them access a digital marketplace for work.

Shockingly, millions of women in countries across this globe have no identity. They are not registered at birth, and local laws or custom do not allow them property ownership or even the right to an inheritance. It’s hard to work and get paid without a bank account, the right to own anything (including liquid assets in the form of cash) or an opportunity to thrive outside the home.

In so many places around the world, women are still perceived as property, expected to fulfill traditional gender roles tied to house and home. Procreation is done without plan or agency, often so young as to be a mystery.

These problems still persist in 2019, one year before the 25th milestone of Beijing where Hillary Clinton famously said, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

In her seminal speech, she cited the contributions women make in every aspect of life. She also noted their challenges—such as being sold as chattel to settle debts, married too young, forced into prostitution, denied credit and economic opportunity, and abuse over the course of a lifetime simply as a result of gender bias.

Those biases still exist, and despite the #MeToo #TimesUp movements we are so familiar with here, in too many corners of the world access to education, health care, jobs and banking are still elusive. Basic legal and human rights are still withheld from women and girls, while their work goes unvalued and their lives still don’t seem to matter.

Here in LA, where I serve on the Commission on the Status of Women, women are empowered in myriad ways with city departments having been directed by the mayor to achieve gender parity and a workforce development board that is focused on creating opportunities for them.

They lead in entrepreneurial startups with a support structure that allows them to work and earn. Our city flourishes for this reason. A lot still needs to be done, but a great deal is also underway.

I am acutely aware of the fact that these opportunities are but a dream in so many places around the world, and I hope as women endure, we persist in trying to learn about their plight and come up with creative programs to enable and empower them until attitudes change, and all women matter, everywhere.

Maryam Zar

Church and State

A very close friend of mine’s brother unexpectedly passed away. She is not a churchgoer, but in her grief and sadness, she sought solace in a nearby local church in the Palisades.

The building and grounds are beautiful. There are several signs posted outside saying “Hate Has No Home Here.”

We entered the church and sat in a pew toward the back. There was a beautiful hymn and then the pastor began his talk to the congregation. He spoke of the negativeness and divisions our country, America, is experiencing.

He then, to our shock, went on to blame all the unrest and bad feelings many people have toward one another politically on our President Donald Trump.

My friend was very offended and upset. So, we promptly left. I emailed the pastor a few days later asking for an apology. I received no reply.

I have always believed in separation of church and state. We pray for our nation that there will be healing and agreement. And people, regardless of politics, will be able to get along.

Gary Carr

‘Caruso Are You Listening?’

It’s officially six months since the Palisades Village opened with the big Vogue fanfare, a red carpet rolled down Monument Street, fireworks and John Legend giving a private concert behind a barrier screen.

That really set the tone for what was coming didn’t it? Now vendors are leaving, one after another. No need to put the long list up here.

The community wanted certain things when they went “all in” on the sales pitch for this development, but they got the complete opposite. To be clear not everyone was buying the Caruso mall model.

We wanted stores that would serve everyone—not “The Devil Wears Prada” crowd only. We wanted a bookstore, not an Amazon store that happens to also sell books. We wanted a movie theater for families and teens, not a $27-per-ticket, eat-in, booze-in affair that costs a family of four close to $200 to see a movie and excludes teens completely by pricing them out.

We wanted at least a few basic restaurants that were affordable, easy, family friendly and authentic, not four that are expensive and not at all family oriented. If there was to be a third grocer, we wanted something that could survive in competition with what is already here or use the space for something else.

To put it bluntly we wanted everyone to be served by your taking over the heart of the downtown. We didn’t want Rodeo Drive by the sea. We wanted an authentic, real, inclusive Village to complement the unique, special community we live in.

We got none of this. So the newness has worn off and people from near and far are dancing to the “been there done that beat,” which is actually a lot louder than Sinatra crooning from the bushes.

Six months … and this is where we are. No spin can justify being so tone deaf as to have missed the mark entirely. It’s a shame.

Julie McBrearty