Amidst dialogue this week on ending domestic violence and creating gender equality, a group gathered on Monday to speak of two other global phenomena that are affecting women: migration and climate change.
Moderated by Carol Barton of the United Methodist Women (UMW) Immigrant/Civil Rights Initiative, the hour-long event featured reports from a wide range of migration and human rights groups including the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Domestic Workers United (DWU) in New York, and the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR).
The dialogue was held as a side event in conjunction with the U.N.'s 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which is taking place in New York from Mar. 1-12.
Opening the talks was Gemma Adaba, ITUC representative to the United Nations (U.N.), who spoke about the commoditization of labor and its impact on human rights.
"We have integration in terms of products and production, and services as well…and what is happening in this global arena is that this movement of people is being treated exactly like this movement of goods and services," Adaba said.
"We must remind these global policy makers that labor is not a commodity," she added.
Regarding the impact on women in the process, Adaba pointed out areas like education, health and domestic work where recruiting agents, or "middle men," recruit women for work but force them to pay large sums of money for their visas. She also spoke of human trafficking as the low point of such recruitment efforts.
In combating these practices, Adaba said that a challenge must be made to the "liberal framework" underlying the situation, including notions that "circular migration," or temporary migration, is good for development of non-industrialized countries.
"We propose to say that development is good for migration," Adaba countered, adding that a focus should be placed on Millenium Development Goal (MDG) number eight which refers to a "partnership in development" between rich and poor countries.
Adaba argues that such an approach would provide for real growth in developing countries and allow migration to become a personal choice rather a compulsory one.
"If people want to migrate they can, rather than it being a forced issue, where the situation is so dire in their country," Adaba concluded.
Following Adaba's presentation was Joycelyn Gill-Campbell of DWU, a former domestic worker herself and a victim of exploitation.
Gill-Campbell told the story of a job she had looking after a young girl in Manhattan where she had to wear a white uniform "like Florence Nightingale" and was paid $271 every two weeks.
"The family had two dogs…and one of them developed cancer…she was a stay at home mom and he was an investment banker, and they went out and bought a double stroller…so here I am pushing this dog and this little girl in a double stroller through the streets of Manhattan," Gill-Campbell told. "It's then that I realized that something is really wrong with this industry."
Campbell went on to mention several New York-state regulations that DWU had been involved in pushing through, including the "Nanny Bill" and the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
She noted also that her group has won $600,000 in back wages for domestic workers, and they "haven't lost a case yet."
"And we have no intentions of losing any. We have intentions of fighting for what we believe in," she declared, drawing applause. "Human rights are workers rights."
Last in the presentation line up was Catherine Tactaquin of NNIRR, who spoke of the "greening of hate" phenomena that has crept back into the immigration debate, which is a platform attempting to stigmatize migration as a major source of environmental danger.
"Therefore to alleviate these pressures on the environment [they say] we should be deporting people…and restricting immigration," she explained.
Tactaquin also noted the force climate change has had on migration, saying that there are currently 25 million people who are displaced due to the phenomenon – a number that could rise as high as 250 million by 2050 if there is no intervention.
In responding to the presentations, Patricia Cuyatti, a pastor in the Peruvian Evangelical Lutheran Church, told of the effects that climate change has had in her country, particularly on the major sector of agriculture.
"We don't have heating and cooling, people are getting sick, people are dying," Cuyatti said. "Peru is a country where agriculture is important."
Ending the session was the release of a new report drafted by the UMW and the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), which summarized the findings of a workshop held last November in Athens that discussed the exploitation of undocumented women in the workplace.
The event was an example of how immigration reform continues to be a major focus within the ecumenical movement, with several national campaigns such as the "Together,Not Torn" effort currently running to lobby policy makers to take action.
Immigration reform will also be the main topic of the upcoming Ecumenical Advocacy Days summit held from Mar. 19-22 in Washington, D.C., which is an event co-sponsored by the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and others.
Along with keynote speeches and opportunities for dialogue, the summit will include a march on the national mall to push government for "just, humane immigration reform."
"People of faith will not stand by as our broken immigration system rips families apart, and anger, frustration, and misunderstanding divide our nation," a statement from March For America says. "This March, we are standing up for our families and our communities."
Ecumenical Advocacy Days comes ahead of the 2010 Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), which is scheduled to be held in November in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.