Linking the Parable of the Fig Tree with the experience of the Commission on the Status of Women

A quote for Irish Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason at closing of the Commission on the Status of Women from the Irish Poet Seamus Heaney. ‘Walk on air against your better judgement”  and from Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women quoting Mary Robinson quoting Nelson Mandela on another occasion during the commission – “We are prisoners of hope” sum up some of the experience of the commission.    The Lebanon Representative quoted Simone Beauvoir ‘never forget it will be enough for one political, economic or religious crisis for women’s right to be questioned. These rights can never be taken for granted.  You must remain vigilant your whole life.’ 

I reflected on the above quotation against the backdrop of the parable on the fig tree Luke 13:6-9.  ‘…for three years I have come in search of fruit …but have found none.’  The Commission on the Status of Women has just completed its 63rd session.  See https://winifredd.wordpress.com for more reflections on the outcome. Susan Daily, an Australian Sister of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin (Loreto), an artist gave us this piece of art for Sunday’s reflection. I was struck by the color and the fruit. This reflects my vision for gender equality and the full recognition of the human rights of girls, women and children, indeed for all people to be in relationship of respect in the face of diversity and difference.

Susan Daily

There is an Ethiopian Proverb that says ‘little by little the egg walks’.  The Direction Statement of the Congregation (2015) states ‘We struggle to find a way to address global issues.  We identified the most pressing needs of today as poverty, human trafficking, migration, refugees, gender equality, violence towards women and children and religious intolerance.”   All of these issues are in one way or another part of what the two weeks of CSW and the Agreed Conclusions were about.  I/we who attended CSW on your behalf were struggling to address global issues through the framework of the Commission on the Status of Women.

March 22, Friday of the Second Week of CSW 63

It is afternoon on Friday of the 2nd week of CSW 63 and we are poised waiting to see when will we have agreed conclusion.

Some different perspectives on the two weeks from Global Sisters Report. One article is by Samantha Wirth a public policy fellow with Good Shepherd Services, New York City. Here is another viewpoint from many Sisters Congregations at the United Nations. Unlearning Eurocentrism at the UN women’s Commission by Adele McKiernan a Loretto Volunteer.

Conference Room 4 – Commission on the Status of Women: Informals (Closed) – meaning negotiations are taking place and NGOs cannot enter

The day was spend mostly at the UN from 2.30 p.m. until 11.00 p.m waiting, watching, wondering, getting updates, chatting with friends, approaching delegates as they entered and left Conference Room 4. What is the situation of the negotiations now? How many paragraphs agreed? What are the sticky areas? Will there be an outcome document? It’s hopeful! Maybe at 5.00, no not 5.00 maybe in another hour or hour and a half! Then there is movement a rush towards the door – it is approximately 6.40 p.m. Yes we have Agreed Conclusion. A sigh of relief and excitement. We NGO’s file our way in and up to the balcony to await the opening of the 14th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. There is a delay – the agreed document has to be printed and distributed before the this session starts. Groups are moving around. It is approaching 7.45 when the session starts. The session is webcast Do look at it and you will have a global view of the current situation of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The session opens – with accounts of cyber bullying and telephone bullying of the facilitator of the Agreed Conclusions Ms. Koki Muli Grignon (Deputy Permanent Representative, Kenya), Vice-Chair (African States Group). Ambassador felt scared! These tactics are an attack on the multilateral system which strives to accommodate different opinions and celebrate diversity.


Waiting, watching, wondering, and getting updates.
Chatting with friends

Objections to the agreed conclusions we expressed by some member states. By reviewing the webcast you can see what the red lines were. Some positive aspects for me – there is reference to ILO Recommendation 202 in paragraph 6, in paragraph (d) under strengthening normative, legal and policy frameworks, (f) ensure the right to social security in national legal frameworks, as well as ensure universal access to social protection, supported by national strategies, policies , action plans, and adequate resources, to enhance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Under strengthen women’s and girls’ access to social protection paragraph (gg) Work towards establishing or strengthening inclusive and gender responsive social protection systems, including floors, to ensure full access to social protection for all without discrimination of any kind and take measures to progressively achieve higher levels of protection, including facilitating the transition from informal to formal work. Other areas are highlighted (hh) to have social protection measures incorporated into humanitarian response, (jj) women’s access to pensions, and income security for older women, (ll) maternity benefits and (kk) access to social protection in countries of destination for migrant workers. The Agreed Conclusions stopped short of ‘universal child benefits’ or ‘basic income security for children’ (ILO R 202) but did elaborate a paragraph (ii) on nutrition policy. See the press release by UN Women

We have Agreed Conclusion!

Second Week of CSW 63

Second week of CSW 63 started this morning with attendance at the NGOCSW Morning Briefing. Side events commenced at 8.15 a.m and parallel events at 8.30 a.m. I am attending two parallel event this afternoon – one sponsored by the Women’s Major Group and the second an event on Human Trafficking organized by Mercy International.

All issues at the United Nations are interconnected. SDG 5 is central to the 2030 Agenda and mainstreamed throughout the other goals – girls and women in relation to poverty, food, heath, education , gender equality, water and sanitation, energy, decent work, resilient infrastructure (being addressed by CSW 63) inequality, cities, consumption and production, climate change, oceans, land, peaceful societies and partnership.
See SDG and Lent in English French Spanish
Today March 18th picks up SDG 5 and is reflecting on Human Trafficking.
A parallel event the leadership of Mercy International, the Permanent Mission of Belarus to the UN, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime and Good Shepherd Welcome House, Cebu, Philippines! Check out two publications: I Have a Voice Trafficked Women – in their own words and Inherent Dignity – An Advocacy Guidebook
Your team Alexis and Winifred advocating for girls – on panels, at the Girls Caucus, and throughout the negotiation of the agreed conclusion which will be happening all of this week. We have been using the position paper on the Girl Child to inform our advocacy.

Day 3 of CSW 63 – Featuring the NGOCSW Morning Briefing

Webcast of NGOCSW Morning Briefing featuring Women’s Human Rights

Asa Regner is the Assistant Secretary-General, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women. Asa is from Sweden and was appointed to this role in March 2018. Read more Andrew Gilmore is Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, heading OHCHR’s office in New York. He outlined the distinction between ‘pushback’ against women’s rights and ‘backlash’. Pushback is resistance to the human rights agenda whereas backlash is a reaction to the same agenda. We hear with increasing frequency these words both in discussion and examples in people’s lives. Reprisals are a growing phenomenon. Persons and groups are prevented from co-operating with the United Nations, and in some cases there are reprisals and punishments for having cooperated with the United Nations. Women Human Rights Defenders are particularly vulnerable to reprisals, on line harassment, sexual assault, and targeting of family members. Haydee Castillo was on the panel too sharing on the situation in Nicaragua.

Secretary General held a townhall meeting with women gather for CSW 63 yesterday March 12. “To promote human rights for all, as gender equality is a central instrument for human rights.  To ensure development for all, as gender equality is a fundamental tool for development.” Read more

Attended the US Women Caucus at noon today. Guest Speaker Elahe Amani who gave an outline of the recent history of the Women’s Conferences, CSW and UN Women. “We do not come to CSW to attend parallel events but to hold Governments accountable and to advance progressive policies which if implemented would make a change.”
Elahe Amani
See the website

Impressions from the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 63)

Illustrating the theme of CSW 63 in pictures – focusing on social protection,
public services and infrastructure. Alexis Schutz from the GSIJP Office in the picture

The official opening of the Commission was proceeded by the NGOCSW Consultation Day on Sunday March 10. The GSIJP Office was joined by two Good Shepherd Volunteers – Sarabella Muise and Shannon Mahedy. ‘Social Protection mitigates economic and social distress’

The opening of the Commission was webcast and can be found in the Archives Secretary General indicated that this is the Commission on the Status of Women. But it could equally go by another name: the Commission on the Status of Power. How apt! Because he said this is the crux of the issue! Gender equality is fundamentally a question of power. The statement of the President of the General Assembly is in Spanish. The Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Ms. Hilary Gbedemah said ‘Women are disadvantaged in social protection systems, experiencing lower coverage rates and substantially lower benefit levels. The Committee recognises that social protection policies are an important tool for reducing . poverty and gender inequality. Gender gaps in accessing social protection vary per region and country, as they are largely dependent on the characteristics of the labour market and the structure of the social security system.’ See the full text If you wish to see who is who with regard to Women’s and Girls Leadership at the United Nations review the panel line up. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women also made a Statement. If you prefer to read an account rather than watch the webcast go to UN Meeting Coverage

While there is optimism and hope for a good outcome many sharing and stories tell of backlash against gender equality. ” As push back against women’s rights around the world threaten to reverse hard-won gains, conviction and political courage must drive forward progress and build on achievements, high-level speakers pledged at the opening session of the sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women.” … “United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that when women are excluded, everyone pays, also warning that the world today is witnessing a deep, pervasive and relentless push back on women’s rights.  “We will push back against the push back,” he pledged, adding that the United Nations is also making progress in achieving gender parity.” All quotes from the UN Meeting Coverage link above

The GSIJP team starting the second day – taking photographs on the way!
Social Protection Advocates meet up! ” Establish human rights-based, gender-sensitive Social Protection Floors at the national level as a first step in the creation of Universal Social Protection, in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda, and ‘to reach those furthest behind first.’ Good Shepherd Statement to CSW 63 One of the official document to the Commission
Good friends and colleagues at CSW 63 doing their part in advocacy so as Enact a just, integrated and sustainable model of development, inclusive of gender, environmental, and economic justice, that puts the interests of disempowered, marginalized and impoverished girls, women and their communities at the centre of policy concerns, ahead of the corporate agenda, and upholds the protection of their human rights.
On the way to moderate this High Level Side Event “Gender Violence: Prevention, Protection and Social Inclusion”

Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 63rd Session March 11- 22

Priority Theme: Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls

H.E. Ms. Geraldine Byrne Nason (Ireland), Chair (Western European and other States Group) welcomes each one to CSW 63 Proud to be Irish!
Join us for our parallel event on March 14 – Access the documentary
PowerPoint Overview of CSW 63

Our statement to the Commission on the Status of Women makes the following recommendations. These are our advocacy points

Enact a just, integrated and sustainable model of development, inclusive of gender, environmental, and economic justice, that puts the interests of disempowered, marginalized and impoverished girls, women and their communities at the centre of policy concerns, ahead of the corporate agenda, and upholds the protection of their human rights.

Establish human rights-based, gender-sensitive Social Protection Floors at the national level as a first step in the creation of Universal Social Protection, in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda, and ‘to reach those furthest behind first.’

Express strong political will to reject austerity measures in favour of the implementation of social protection systems financed through progressive taxation, addressing Illicit flows, and the reallocation of military expenditures.

Ensure better access to health care, quality education, skills training, and public services for girls and women.

Enable inclusive, non-tokenistic participation for girls and women at all levels of decision-making including policy design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.

See the references to Social Protection in our Position Papers
Explore more about Social Protection
Birthing an Alternative Future: Cosponsoring this event with Doula Designs
Panelist – presenting on ‘Girls Access to Social Protection’