Sometimes, conferences just aren’t on the cards. Work, family, health, money – all can get in the way. So here is the first of a few virtual opportunities to meet some women who you [if you’re reading from Canada, of course] won’t run into at the mall or the library, because they live and work “overseas”.
First up, two women who work with the Women’s Budget Forum of the Adva Centre, Israel. I met them at Feminist Legal Studies Queen’s Conference: Women and Equality: Law, Gender-Based Analysis, and Economic Rights. The Conference was organized by Professor Kathy Lahey and Associate Professor Bita Amani (I owe them both a big thank you for how enjoyable and informative it was).
Valeria Seigelshifer is an advocacy expert with the Women’s Budget Forum at the Adva Centre. She spoke about ‘Examining Budgets under a Gender-Responsive Lens: The Example of Israel’. Yael Hasson, coordinator of the Women’s Budget Forum, Adva Centre and a doctoral candidate in the Sociology Department, University of Haifa presented data on ‘Why Women Lose from Tax Cuts’. One of things that made both these talks so interesting to me was the fact that the Women’s Budget Forum’s member organizations are drawn from across all the “fault lines” of religion and ethnicity in the intensely complicated Israeli context. Arab women’s groups, Bedouin women’s groups, Jewish women’s groups including groups made up of Orthodox and ultra Orthodox Jews come together to contribute to the recommendations made. In addition to what they substantively produce, I’d be interested in hearing more about their process.
Here’s an example of the WBF’s work: Valeria described advocacy around a government proposal to build more daycare centres. The prioritization method was simple – communities with oversubscribed daycare centres would have first priority. The WBF’s contribution was to lobby for a different model – since many of the most impoverished Arab towns had no daycare at all, they weren’t eligible for any priority. You can read more about the WBF’s contributions to this particular policy here (take a minute to consider that it looks like everything on their website is available in 3 languages!).
Another interesting bit of advocacy (click here to find this on the WBF website):
On May, 2008 a correction on the Statistics Bill passed requiring the National Bureau of Statistics to collect and publish sex desegregated data. The bill was inspired by the advocacy activities of The Women’s Budget Forum, which was an active participant in the preparatory steps of the bill – and all its suggestions for improvement of the bill were accepted.
This new law requires the National Bureau of Statistics to collect, analyze and publish data that is sex desegregated. In addition, the law aims to ensure adequate representation to women in policy making and the development of gender statistics. The requirement to collect sex desegregated data applies not only to the National Bureau of Statistics but also to national ministries, local councils and government corporations.
It was great to meet Valeria and Yael, and to hear about the WBF – an interesting organization engaged in public education, advocacy, policy analysis and constantly putting gender analysis in front of Israeli citizens, policy makers and legislators. After the conference I drove them back to Toronto rather late on Saturday night after dinner at Chez Piggy (is it possible to go to Queen`s and not eat at Chez Piggy? I’m not complaining – I had halibut and it was delicious).
A couple of other non Canadians were at the conference:
Marcia Zug of the University of South Carolina School of Law spoke about how some parents who are deported from the US d/t undocumented status are also having their parental rights permanently severed – in contravention of prevailing US precedents about parental fitness. Marcia suffered a bit from the change in temperature from South Carolina to Kingston, it seemed : she was wearing her hat and coat inside all day…. I also had the pleasure of meeting Maria Wersig (website is in Deutsch but some of Maria’s work is in English) now visiting at Pace University School of Law. Maria spoke about German tax policy, visions of the family and the LGBT community. She’s a co editor of this forthcoming book: Challenging Gender Inequality in Tax Policy Making: Comparative Perspectives (ed. Kim Brooks, Asa Gunnarsson, [my Osgoode colleague] Lisa Philipps and Maria Wersig (forthcoming from Hart Publishing Inc.).