Carole Shaw, CEO of JERA International, respected women’s rights advocate, activist, researcher, policy maker and veteran CSW expert, shares reflections on the invaluable spaces that women create at CSW for mobilising, networking, strategising and (re)connecting.

These are the spaces where collective action strengthens and supports us all to advance women’s rights and gender equality.

CSW60 Day 3: Across New York today women are mobilising, strategising and meeting. For many the Sunday prior to the commencement of CSW is one of reconnecting, restrategising and preparation for the events, lobbying and advocacy to be employed over the next 2 weeks of CSW. Of course this advocacy is not just starting here – we are not starting at zero with women’s rights, we have many normative frameworks to strengthen and build upon. The work of many of the groups and caucuses meeting today is work that has continued over many years and has provided key inputs into the Beijing Platform for Action, UNSCR 1325, the Cairo Convention, Financing for Development sessions and Sustainable Development Goals.

One of the larger and open civil society events was the NGO CSW Forum on ‘Sustainable Development and Women’s Empowerment’. This event which is an open event to anyone attending CSW and which draws together members of Civil Society with UN and Government delegates to discuss the links to the SDGs, the priority theme, review theme of Preventing Violence Against Women, and the working methods for CSW.   At this day of information, reconnecting and inspiring over 700 women and some men discussed the forthcoming CSW60 at the NGO CSW / NY Consultation day held at the Y on 92nd Street, New York. In a packed program of information, music, ‘poe tree’ and discussion, the various elements of CSW 60 were discussed.

The event opened Gaida, a Syrian musical group and a stark reminder of the troubles caused through conflict and political stress.

Next followed a scene setting session with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women and HE Ambassador Antonio de Agular Patriota, Permanent Representative, Mission of Brazil, Bureau Chair CSW moderated by La Neice Collins, Communications and Advocacy Adviser, UN the role of civil society, implementation of Beijing Platform for Action and financing for development were highlighted and unpacked.

In an honest and open keynote by Women of Distinction Awardee Bandana Rana, who is also the co-chair of AP NGO CSW, took us all on a journey through her activism, addressing key questions along the way, she shared the first steps of setting up safe houses for women suffering from violence , and how strength can be drawn from understanding the issues in a human rights format.  Bandana’s words resonerated with many in the room and she finished to a standing ovation.

A Panel session ‘No one left behind’ allowed for a frank and open discussion on the opportunities and constraints in implementing the 2030 Agenda. While there is a focus on the normative framework and this is necessary, there remains a critical need for civil society to be involved in all stages of implementation and a stronger focus should be on implementation of the forward looking 2030 Agenda. CSW can play a key role in monitoring and evaluating the implementation, but Beijing Platform for Action should not be lost in the discussions, nor should CSW become the only place for discussion on SDG Gender Goal 5 but an opportunity to also mainstream gender across all SDG’s. All SDGs should be reported upon in the General Assembly.

Advocacy training, break out sessions and working groups were formed in the afternoon allowing strategies to occur in the global area to be followed through in the caucus meeting and CSW 60thsessions.

For me, networking strategizing and reconnecting are the main reason to attend such events. Whether it is the NGO full day program, where new CSW attendees can gain crucial information and meet key leaders in advancing women’s rights, or the more focused and strategic caucus meetings, where ongoing work around key thematic or identity issues are pushed and build upon, reconnection and being once more with international colleagues who think and work together is crucial to effective work.

The opportunity to ‘check in’ and reconnect with like minded advocates who until this time have been a voice on the end of skype, a linked collective piece of writing, or emails throughout the day and in the middle of the night as we work to tight deadlines, is invaluable for creative thinking and moving forward. These are the spaces where collective action strengthens and supports us all to advance women’s rights and gender equality.

Carole Shaw, 14 March 2016

Originally posted on the JERA International website