Delegate for the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW) to the 60th Commission on the Status of Women, Dr Jackie King, shares her reflections from CSW 60 Consultation Day and Opening Session.

CSW 60 Consultation Day 

This year’s CSW  theme is on women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development with a review theme of eliminating and preventing of all forms of violence against women and girls. The Consultation Day of the UN CSW 60 is the first official opportunity for civil society to come together, to meet and learn about the strategic issues that will be considered at the 2 week event.  It is an inspiring, informative and entertaining event. Held at the 92 Y, a Jewish community Centre in the Upper East of NYC, it was a wonderful feeling, as a Jewish Australian, to see the multicultural presence of the CSW delegates, in a Jewish communal building, with the Israeli flag held high.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under Secretary Gender and Executive Director of UN Women, explained to the audience that 2 of the most pressing issues for this year’s CSW was the need for financing (including the need to change tax structures), that is resourcing for gender equity, and in particular for women’s grassroots organisations – these are the vehicles for change that are evidenced to have the most impact.

The other issue was the need for youth to have a greater voice at the inter-governmental forum. This year hosted the first ever CSW Youth forum with the acknowledgement that a multigenerational approach is best, and that youth are integral part of decision making.

H.E. Ambassador Antonio de Agular Patriota, Permanent Representative Mission of Brazil, Bureau Chair, CSW discussed the centrality of the Sustainable Development Goal 5, which looks towards full gender equality by 2030. He told that audience that as well as a stand a long goal, gender equality is at the heart of agenda to eradicate poverty, and solve global problems of migration, violence against women, climate change, peace and security. In all of this he stated, “leadership is key”. He went on to state that “Leadership can be exercised by recognising and exposing vulnerabilities and shortcomings, rather than hide them from public view, and the  multilateral system has a role in this”.

He called for all institutions to be gender aware – across all sectors and ministries, and that financing and data were crucial to this- resources and evaluation. He called on civil society to establish alliances with government and the private sector- “Where the alliances are not there we need to establish them, where they do exist we must expand them”.

Bandana Rana, the Woman of distinction awardee provided an astounding account of her work and life in Nepal. Bandana is the founder and coordinator of the National Network against Domestic Violence and founded the first women’s shelter in Nepal.  Rana had served as chair of National Women’s Commission in Nepal. Her focus during the speech was on the power of movement building and the difference that individuals can make through connection and collaboration.

The powerful lyrics of Climbing Poe Tree followed the keynote- these astonishing slam poets lifted the room with their inspired lyrics about women being the change they want to see. The opportunities and constraints of the 20130 Agenda, particularly in relation to the aim of “No One left behind” was the critical subject of the next panel, before the forum broke into groups to discuss 5 main themes: advocacy and the international system; peace, security and migration; education and health; poverty and finance; water and climate change.

This was a wonderful orientation for the 2 weeks of the CSW, and a great insight into the issues, challenges and complexities of placing gender at the heart of the national and domestic stages.

 

Opening Session of the 60th Commission on the Status of Women 

The opening of the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women on 14 March, 2016   at the UN General Assembly was a moment of promise for the 2 weeks to come, an opportunity for member states to develop a plan to implement he Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The opening ceremony firmly placed the 17 SDG’s firmly on the gender agenda.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stated that “ This Commission is the largest and most critical intergovernmental forum, with diverse women’s voices that can influence the road to 2030….Now we gather to seek implementation modalities that match this bold agenda, where there can be no ‘business as usual’”. For her, the “CSW60 is the first test of our resolve”, a chance to “step it up” and must be undertaken with collaboration with civil society and women’s organizations, as well as the private sector.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon moved the audience:

“….in the toughest conditions you find the strongest heroines. …Where violent extremists threaten female students, young girls courageously attend school. In United Nations peacekeeping operations, our female police serve as role models of equality. At statehouses and in parliaments, women officials show that leadership has no gender”. He urged “action by all those leaders of countries where not even a single woman is in the parliament or cabinet to end this injustice. There are still five countries in the world where not a single woman is represented in the parliament and seven countries without any women in the cabinet”.

Other speakers included the Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, President of the General Assembly, Vice President of ECOSOC, Ministers, representatives of the Youth CSW, and other civil society and governmental representatives.

The need for financing and the allocation of resources for gender equity, investments to close the gender funding gap, starting with government budgets and procurement required parity. It has been recognised that the SDGs are at the centre of prejudices and structural inequalities relating to gender and there was also acknowledgement that the elimination of such structural barriers increase women’s participation and empowerment to act as change agents.

The audience heard that autonomous feminist organisations that advance women’s rights, have been evidenced to be the most effective in driving change. Further, there was some discussion about the need for gender responsive data collection to occur, to enhance accountability and support programs that work.

The need for the implementation of the goals to be evidenced was the focus of the ceremony. Of course, the fact that the UN has not yet been led by a women was the topic of conversation among many delegates at the conclusion of the Opening Ceremony. Ban Ki-moon’s term as UN Secretary General is complete at the end of 2016. Time will reveal whether the powerful call to action to governments at the Opening Ceremony will be heeded, and whether the UN will reflect and emulate its message to empower women and girls to become leaders and decision makers at all levels.