So I pretty much fell off the old wagon on posting in this, being away at Base Camp and then doing the post-vacay get your life back together thing, and I am going to have a long post about Base Camp with roughly a million photos that you will think all look the same…. but first! I wanted to do a quick post focusing on what I’ve been doing specifically work-wise… because I actually do work as well as post hilarious punny Justin Bieber lyrics photos and climb mountains.
So at the end of February, International IDEA hosted a conference about the implementation of women’s human rights as countries transition to a new constitution. It was an awesome weekend, with professionals from our Hague and Stockholm offices in attendance, as well as participants from 17 different countries. The two main focus issues of the workshop were women’s political participation and the right to health. With a focus on these areas, we explored how constitutional principles of gender equality and non-discrimination, along with rights specific to those areas, are implemented (or not), to gain a better understanding of how constitutional design for equality contributes to substantive gender equality.
The current research on gender equality provisions in constitutions demonstrates that their inclusion provides a legal basis and legitimacy for women’s right advocacy, it helps prevent policy reversals that would be harmful to women, and it may increase the likelihood of court judgments which treat women’s rights in a positive and progressive manner. Since World War II, most constitutions have included non-discrimination clauses and gender-specific equality provisions at the very least. In the past twenty years or so, gender-specific provisions in constitutions has been on the rise to allow for the promotion of substantive equality. These provisions assist in promoting gender equality in multiple spheres of life, including politically, the economically and socially.
It is through the implementation of a constitution that we can assess whether or not the goals and values enshrined in a constitution are actually available in practice. Implementation should be a process that considers gender at all levels – not only in implementing the gender-specific provisions, but in all aspects of the constitution (reforming security forces, the labour field, and federal and provincial budgeting, among others). This will assist in achieving substantive equality, and we refer to this focused process as ‘gender-responsive constitutional implementation.’
The implementation of a constitution is actually a pretty exciting process to be around – really, a constitution can say just about anything, but if we don’t find ways of putting the values into practice, does it matter what it says? A lot of implementation goes into legislative reform (changing and updating laws so they fit in with the new values), so it’s important that the legislature and the executive are aware of these issues, and that women (and other historically marginalized groups) are represented in these bodies. The workshop was really interesting because it gave panelists the opportunity to share their experiences in implementing their constitutions and women’s rights generally – and these panelists came from very diverse backgrounds: Afghanistan, Costa Rica, France, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, South Africa, and Tunisia.
So, my initial role in this conference was essentially to take notes and write up a report of everything, so pretty much all my insurance defence training in going to discoveries was going to be useful again.
But we ended up having some issues with finding a French translator for our panelist from Tunisia, so that meant that I got to sit with a panel and give the English version of her presentation.
I mean really, thank goodness I’ve been watching Narcos in French, because I haven’t really had the chance to speak to anyone extensively in French since November, and even after working at the ICTY in French, it’s easy to lose some of the legal terminology when you switch back to working in English full-time. So my French Netflix at least has kept my ear up! It all went really well actually, and was a very cool (and exhausting) experience. It’s one thing to get a document in another tongue and have the chance to read through and process it, or to listen to people deliberating and discussing ideas, but I had to make sure her presentation was accurately represented and didn’t want to miss anything, so I essentially was listening to the French and writing everything down simultaneously in English to make sure I covered it all when it was my turn to speak.
Though a very nerve-wracking experience, I’m glad I got the opportunity to participate in a different way at this conference!
We also hosted another talk the following weekend at the SAARCLaw Conference, again, relating to women’s rights and their implementation.
And, I’ve got to say, it has been really nice doing women-specific work for the past little while, and especially to have the chance to go to these larger events and discuss issues affecting different parts of the world. These opportunities have been really helpful for me, because a lot of the work I’ve ended up doing here has had a specific focus on women’s rights.
My main project this week is to draft a comparative constitutional research memo to advance the idea that Nepal’s constitution reflects the principles of substantive equality. By comparing Canadian, Kenyan and South African equality provisions with those contained within the Nepali constitution, I’m aiming to draft a reference paper for members of the legal and policy world in Nepal. Ideally, this can be used by advocates and gender activists in pushing for a progressive interpretation of the constitution. This paper is coming out of a greater project I’ve been working on since arriving, which is our audit of the Constitution from a gendered perspective. I’m really enjoying it all, and maybe after this shorter reference paper is completed, I can work on a larger research project incorporating the same ideas!
As one final work point – the judgment that I worked on at the ICTY is coming out tomorrow! There will be a livestream on the ICTY website at 10.00am Central European Time for anyone who is interested!
So that is my work update! I promise that the other updates will be coming (in the meantime, I’ve hiked to Everest Base Camp and celebrated Holi, so there is a lot to tell!
I will give one quick fun story though – I had my Nepali horoscope told this past weekend! To get your reading, you need to provide your date and time of birth, the location you were born in, and your parents’ names. I mostly did this for fun – I think you can buy into these kinds of things (ie. tarot, palm reading, etc.) as much or as little as you want, but I’m always interested to see what someone will say, and it doesn’t hurt so why not.
Even though I am someone who goes into these things not necessarily believing everything (there are a lot of phonies out there), I try to have an open mind generally. Literally, it is eerie how accurate some of the things this guru told me were. For example, he asked if both my mother and I suffer from migraines (we do), and told me I left my family home around the time I turned 14 (which I did, to go to boarding school). He also said that, had I been born in Nepal, my name would start with a soft ‘g’ sound (my middle name is Janine). So, I mean who knows how they know these things, or if it’s just a lucky guess (as I said, buy into it as much or as little as you’d like – the more you buy into it, I think the more accurate or applicable everything becomes).
Regardless, I was pretty into his predictions for my future: he said that I would start traveling when I was 23 (that’s how old I was when I moved to Cape Town), and that, after starting traveling, I would be taking short contract work positions until I was 29, spending minimal time in Canada. He said after 29, I would find a more stable job, and that would be a better time for my to focus on family (ie. getting married), because, if I married before the age of 29 and before having had three serious boyfriends, my marriage would end in divorce (not that I’m anywhere near getting married anyways, so good!). Best of all, he told me after the age of 35, I was going to become very well-known in my work – his best guess was that I would become either a politician or an ambassador.
(He also said I was going to have three kids, which, noooooo thaaaaaank you. Maybe three dogs at some point!)
Anyways, it was an interesting experience, and I mean…. Amal Clooney was appointed as adviser to Kofi Annan when she was 35, so… maybe the guru knows my #Amalyourlife plan?
More stories soon!