thumbnail of Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Women's Rights
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Another program in the special series report from Montreal. The international assembly for human rights. Some delegates and observers from all parts of the world gathered in the Canadian Metropolis recently in an unofficial six day meeting to examine the entire spectrum of human rights problems in connection with the current international year for human rights. Today we turn in particular to the subject of women's rights including such specific problems as voting privileges employment and working conditions education maternity and childcare rights and other aspects. But before we turn to today's major subject you might like to hear a brief greeting from United Nations secretary general. As he addressed the assembly by way of a film sent to Montreal from U.N. headquarters in New York. Now here is 2000 a year for human rights. A unique opportunity. To review human rights don't you know that you need records are going to reach your.
Future. The United Nations human rights and fundamental freedoms that United Nations charter. On human rights. Conventions. And. Conviction the.
United Nations. It is an essential part of the. Economic and social well-being of the nation. The maintenance of peace. And achievement of economic development and social. Security and. Individual. Meetings you'll be examining. Technological Change. The means expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition to evaluating using a new technique for the protection of human rights.
Which accompany technological advances. Important to be distinguished by different. Nations will show up. At all levels. Government public opinion. Much of the progress made over the last 20 years. In the promotion and protection of human rights. Governments must take effective responsibility. On the private. And government action. These activities can also contribute to the idea. Of the international community activities in the field of human rights.
For human rights. And that was recorded greeting to the assembly for Human Rights held recently in Montreal Quebec. Turning to our featured topic of women's rights we'll open with a short interview with the assemblies leading spokesmen and resource person on that topic on the human rights field and then we'll go on to present for you some of the give and take of the discussion from the floor of the assembly. Mrs. Howe was chairman of the 967 session of the United Nations Commission on the status of women. She's from Helsinki Finland and before we turn to the subject of women's rights problem as it exists now in 1968 Mississippi. What would you tell us something about your professional
background back in Finland. I am a lawyer and I have an office of my own in Helsinki. When I started in 1943 I was the only woman attorney in Finland. Now I am one of the very few and mostly dealing with questions. So they took women in private law in family cases especially if you are the rotary few women here in the professions and from what. We have a very very high number of women in professions and I must say that we have a great number of women lawyers as well but most of them are prepared to serve the government in different ways. High percentage of them judges as well. What would you say in a general way about the status of women in your home country. I would say that it's rather high when we have the 43 percent of the whole population economically active population consisting of women. So women. Economically
independent to a great extent. But and to negotiate. Finland is a leading country in the West as far as women in the parliament are concerned. We have 34 women members from among the total of 200 which means 17 percent and it is the haste in the West. A great portion of Finnish women works. Yes I'm actually oh yes really married women married women. So again something which is rather significant to women in Finland even when compared with women in the other Nordic countries in Europe we have many many more married women. Even my this but how did you happen to become associated with the United Nations. Well I must say that it was actually thanks to my government when they applied for membership in the commission and stayed till women started to try to find suitable representative and for some reason I think they
found some of the conditions are favorable in my person because I happened to be a huge international book and I happened to have some kind of separation in some other language. Have you had some other experiences. Yes I personally have been the president of the International Federation of Women Lawyers and I have been working for a long time at the leather Association of Girl Guides NGOs guards and I have been an active member. International I am at the best at the best. At this moment the first vice president I was an international. And other people who have had experience in United Nations agencies sometimes vary in their reactions to that experience. Some of them for yall that got bogged down in bureaucracy or there is much talk and not very much accomplishment and others feel inspired by their
experience what has been your reaction. I must say that the Commission on the status of women really Virk and we make a lot of progress and I think that well known among the United Nations various commissions for being one of the most efficient and really working commission. I think that my feelings were a little different when i first time came to the Assembly and I noticed how much talk there just in order to talk it was almost was not very very often and this is it. Well I suppose that's inevitable in any particular International Group the Commission on the status of women is not a part of UNESCO's or of an Economic Council or of the larger United Nations agency sub commission of the Economic and Social Council.
OK. Yes it's an expert commission which deals especially with the questions of equality and nondiscrimination in the field. Women let's say in order to avoid discrimination based on sex. What if one were to try to start an argument with you and say why take up the rights of women as a subject on the word self. Women are people isn't this an effect or rather segregating women and considering them as a special problem apart from the run of human beings. I agree partly with you all because I think we have come at least now to the moment when we should really consider more attention paid to the two of men because actually we cannot separate women from the community and we can go to a new community of women. Naturally the meaning has been that as long as it was seen in some way understood that there has been discrimination against
women we women have been given the same opportunities in various fields education and employment and so on. And that's why the study said to me and the recommendations had to be made to the government. But I think at that this moment people should understand that we are not dealing with women only we are dealing with a community because it's for the benefit of the community. The more we make active their entire population in the in the countries we're not particularly likely to have a U.N. commission on the status of man very soon on our way. It has been a continuous joke for 20 years. But I think that the right approach already in some way beginning because the last time in February when we had our last session in New York we had three countries represented by men in the commission which has become really a problem in which men are equally interested. As you look at the map the world misses follow other only particular sore
spots as far as equal rights for women are concerned. I would say that piracy especially illiteracy is concerned so in America it's Africa and its Asia but I must say that even even more so called developed part of the bird. There is lots there is a lot of discrimination especially in the field of private law in family legislation for instance. There are very few countries in which complete equality exists even in that field. Not to say anything about the attitude you know among the women themselves. Well would there be a great problem. Are you better developed parts of the world. If one thinks of Switzerland for example where women do not have the vote or not whether they want it very much but they dont have it. Many of them do. Some of them don't. But I must say that the ambassador of Switzerland made me think one thing once and I think that he has a
lot of reason he said that the experience in that some other countries has shown that they actually if you give women voting rights there what they say usually because they do not do is that they do not use it to the extent that we are expecting them to use specially in our country he said. Where everything is based on voting they go to the polls nearly once a month. So all they need. Full and complete but dissipation of all voters they wouldn't anticipate that very many women would vote even if they had. That's what that's what they feel and they saw it and from our way of voting we vote in order to elect somebody to their policy making body but they vote on issues until it's very much afraid that women will perhaps not always know about the issues you know if you know it to be even interested. So the commission on the status of women would not be terribly interested in the problem in Switzerland right now. I think it is and it's very much interested especially from the point of view with a
very very good example that not only the voting mean to mean anything it is their knowledge about the issue you have voting for it means more and that's why women should participate more in the political life and no really the issues on which they're voting for Mrs.. So if you were to draw a graph starting perhaps a century ago indicating progress in respect to women's rights how would it be going particularly in a recent era. Very difficult to say because New Zealand started as a political rights Finland less annexed and Finland made I think more progress than many other countries in that field. Having the first women in parliament for instance. But I think that where women have more equal I think peace after the revolution. Most countries in Eastern Europe at
this moment. I think that they have really made more progress and most of the other countries in the world in general. Has there been rapid progress in the last decade shall we say. I can't say everywhere everywhere because for instance the voting right now exists and all the political rights in 117 countries instead of only about 50 countries for instance 20 years ago. Well now you are no longer active. I take it in the UN Commission on the status of women. But you were a year ago and you're undoubtedly pretty well up to date on what's going on in that body. I'm still a member. You're still a member even though you were actually chairman last year. But what would be some of the major proposals or the major crusades shall we say that this commission is currently engaged in. What business is to be done if I can finally get the question
out. I think what has to be done first but if occasion of all the conventions which exist in the field of human rights which in one way or another way provide for equality in various fields which are most necessary in the political rights employment and patient especially education then the proposal and the next thing is naturally that we may should. But this is much much more in the community affairs because that's the only way they can themselves influence development in the future. In general would you say that you are feeling is one of optimism about the prospects. I am very a great optimist always. Thank you very much and I really hope that I'm right. Appreciate very much being able to speak briefly with Mrs. hell be simpler. Chairman of the 967 session of the U.N. Commission on the status of women. And her opening address from the floor of the Assembly for human rights. Mr Simple made the
point that women in most countries of the world have as she said in the interview again dramatically and realisation of rights normally accorded to male populations during the twenty years since the international Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations. Here now is Mr Simple. This time speaking from the floor on the opening day of the assembly. Thank you Mr. Chairman. As you said so are many of the participants have mentioned today already some of them have a team in the field of the rights of women. Sometimes we however seem to deal with these particular feel of human rights. When we turn a smaller group. I have seen white men I mean the area of women included in the same sentence with the
refugees and slaves. Sometimes it seems to be a difficulty even for women themselves to find out and remember that what you said about the human rights concerning women concerned half of the mankind and actually the entire mankind. I think at 16 it is not only significant here from the point of your of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it has some significance in another meaning as well. Only this year seventy five years have gone since women in any country got one of the important your rights to participate but dissipated in the government of their own countries. When 1893 New Zealand as a first country gave women at least voting rights
I mentioned this is specially because that gives the right picture of the progress made since 1940. Part of the progress in this field was very slow and until 1945. If I am not mistaken only 50 tool countries had given suffrage to women before that in the first world war. Only 20. But when we look at the these sticks now there are one hundred seventeen countries in which women have equal voting rights and equal only debility to the policy making bodies. And that shows that that success has been rather 100 percent since nineteen forty five and I think this
is the most important field where success could have been made. Because since you have given your women in your countries the right to participate in the policy making every other success in any other field of human rights should follow. If women really want to take proper use of their opportunities. We are to deal with a question why this has been possible. I think there might be many reasons but one of the moments so only have been the foundation of a special body within the United Nations to work with the status of women. The Commission on the status of women which has succeeded as an expert body since 1946 and a special section dealing with a status of women within the division of Human Rights in the human
in the in the United Nations secretary of it has been significant in the verdict of the commission that it has been able to make studies all over the world to try to find out what the state of CS What discrimination exists and to make a recommendation for all the Economic and Social Council for the government. And I think that this has really helped the government to get the right idea about the existing situation and to agree. To accept something again a rather historical document the Declaration on the elimination of discrimination against women which was adopted just on the eve of these international hero you know human rights the 7th of
November 1967 with one hundred eleven votes. There are six conventions dealing with the various human rights which specially especially concerned the status of women. The Convention on the political rights of women. The Convention on the nationality of married women the convention on their mutual concent and minimum age for marriage or marriage use the Unix book and mention on discrimination elimination of discrimination and the tool Aiello conventions when dealing with discrimination in employment and of completion and one on the equal or equal pay quote I mean our nation also has been a great help has been the advisory services in the field of human rights. In this program since 1957 there have been
almost I think about 10 or 11 seminars filled in that special area of the state of women post concerning the dissipation of women in public life then concerning the status of women in family law. Then when concerning the advancement of women and a very new serious of Sumi Das was started last year by a universal seminar dealing with the political education of women. I think that all these which have been arranged in different parts of the world have opened their eyes to see what methods could be used in practice in order to achieve. Equality
in all fields and I think one of the reasons why especially this field has been so successful is what has been stated in that of the declaration I just mentioned which sais that the full and complete development of the country the welfare of the VA and a course of peace require the maximum but patient of women as well as men in all people. And therefore it is necessary to ensure their Universo their cognition in law and in fact of the principle of equality for men and women. That was Mrs. held firm and former chairman and currently a member of the U.N. Commission on the status of women. So a job be Wooding chief justice of the Court of Appeals Port of Spain Trinidad and Tobago. Also spoke on women's rights particularly with respect to the situation in his home islands
now. So her age will be what a gentleman. For the last 48 hours almost I had begun to think that I was about the only person present who was not involved in some activity at the United Nations and I was beginning to think therefore did my business here should be one of listening rather than participating. The subject which has now been opened up for discussion is one in which I am very concerned because of a particular feature of it which is very marked in the West in this including Trinidad and Tobago from which I come. I am here in a personal capacity. I do not represent any organization and more particularly I do not represent the government but in my in the course of my practice as a lawyer
and subsequently in the course of my career as chief justice of my country I have had to come across many instances of hardship which is Cup which will come about as a result of the discrimination against women more particularly in the matter of inheritance and in the matter of children who are born out of wedlock. I was particularly pleased to find that Ambassador Richardson in the course of his remarks a little while ago emphasized the need to identify particular problems in our own communities. And one of the major problems in my community is the fact that there are so many women who are unmarried but who have lived for long years faithfully and loyally indeed it is often much more faithfully and much more loyally than my room and have been living with their husbands. This is due to
historical facts. I needn't go into them. I mention one or one particular fact of history only because it has been corrected and that is to say we have a very large Indian population in Trinidad. They married according to their rights and in the days when I was much younger their margins were not registered and although they were married according to their religious rights they were not treated as in law. Being married they therefore suffered under the disabilities attaching to women who are not married and their children suffer the disability of what used to be called and what I hope will no longer be called illegitimate children. That has been corrected and all because of government. Some years ago introduced laws read by the priests who married them
were made marriage officers and were obliged by law to have them have the marriages registered. But there is still a very large number of women who continue living in Cuban and for historical reasons as I've said. To the extent that an anthropologist who made a study of conditions in Jamaica but their conditions familiar are also in the other islands. Describe the book that she wrote or other gave the name and gave the name my name. My mother who fought that need to the book which she wrote. This is a very significant name because in fact so many women take on the responsibility of the home because they find themselves in the position well. Often it is because the man has left but in many instances because when he has died she has found
herself in a complete state of destitution. We have adopted initial law as the basis under which we operate. There are certain changes of course in the context of the law which we have but nevertheless the Basic Law is English. With all the consequences which resulted from it as regards inheritance as regards the position of children who are born out of wedlock and so forth and it's a subject about which I have been I've expressed myself very strongly on many occasions because it's a subject which concerns me.
Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal
Women's Rights
Producing Organization
University of Wisconsin
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-hh6c6k1g).
Series Description
For series info, see Item 3739. This prog.: Women's Rights. Mrs. helvi Sipila, delegate of the UN Commission on the Status of Women; Sir H.O.B. Wooding, Court of Appeals, Trinidad and Tobago; Justice Haim H. Cohn, Israel Supreme Court; Manouchehr Ganji
Social Issues
Global Affairs
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-43-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:54
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Women's Rights,” 1968-11-08, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2024,
MLA: “Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Women's Rights.” 1968-11-08. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Assembly for Human Rights: Montreal; Women's Rights. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from