Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 64th Session March 9 – 20, 2020.

The March 2020 Commission on the Status of Women in New York, will mark the 25th anniversary of the 4th World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. The Commission will review and appraise the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action over the past 25 years. It will further address current challenges experienced by women worldwide and link the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. A very interesting paper that situates the Commission is Democratic backsliding and backlash against women’s rights: Understanding the current challenges for feminist politics The paper is written by Conny Roggeband, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Andrea Krizsan. Center for Policy Studies, Central European University, Hungary and presented at the UN Women Expert Group Meeting in preparation for CSW. While the examples are from Western Europe I am sure that parallels can be found in your own particular region. Hard won gains for women over the 25 years are under attach from many areas such as political participation, labor market, care or violence against women. There is also an interesting perspective on the influence of Churches and some attempt to highlight differences between terms. Is the women’s movement the same or different to feminism? What is ‘gender ideology’? What role does ‘gender ideology’ play in the backlash against women’s rights?

An article in the New York Times dated December 4th reads ‘Across the Globe, a “Serious Backlash Against Women’s Rights” The rise of authoritarianism has catalyzed a rollback of gender violence protections and support systems. The article cited the reaction of Spain’s far right Vox party to the commemoration of the International day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women demanding the repeal of a law protecting women from violence claiming it is unfair to men. Other examples are highlighted from Turkey, Russia, Hungary and China.

The 16 days Campaign is highlighting the extent to which gender based violence continues. A headline ‘Many Europeans consider rape acceptable’ is shocking to read in an European Union report on perceptions of gender based violence

Link to report and map

On December 5 there were reports of an Indian woman who had been raped in March, on her way to court for a hearing of her rape case when she was set upon by 5 men, beaten and set on fire. She is now experiencing 90% burns over her body. The news today, December 7th has just reported that this young woman has died. Such is the backlash to her reporting the crime of rape.

December 6, of the 16 days was dedicated to feticide awareness. The 16 days Campaign is focusing on the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre when 14 women were shot in Canada in 1989. Women’s Aid (Ireland) released updated figures on femicide in Ireland in November 2019. “5 women have died violently so far in 2019. 4 women were killed in their own home.” See Irish Times December 7, 2019.

16 Days Campaign to Eliminate Violence Against Women

Good Shepherd in the Philippines are experiencing the backlash that comes from political engagement on behalf of vulnerable and marginalized people with Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. Sr. Elenita Belardo has dedicated her life to upholding the human rights of the rural poor. No doubt that girls, women and children are among these rural poor.

Sr. Elenita Belardo, National Coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. COURTESY OF RMP Read more

The subject matter for the Commission on the Status of Women will focus on these issues among others as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action provided a holistic approach to the issues experienced by girls and women. The GSIJP Office at the United Nations will be focusing on the trafficking of women and girls into prostitution. This too is a contentious issue. While UN Women recently declared ‘neutrality’ on the issue, read more Good Shepherd stance is far from neutral. Our position states that prostitution is violence against women.

The GSIJP Office has prepared a written statement to the Commission which has not been published yet. We have also engaged with other groups to support issues that are relevant and pertinent to our position papers. Among the groups are Working Group on Girls focusing on the Girl Child; Maryknoll on Women and Climate Change; and with Act Alliance in a statement entitled ‘Faith in Beijing+25, a collective of faith actors pushing back against the push back.’

The Feminist and Women’s Action group have collated the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform into 6 cross cutting themes (i)  Environmental conservation, protection and rehabilitation (ii)  Freedom from violence, stigma and stereotypes (iii)  Poverty eradication, social protection and social services (iv) Inclusive development, share prosperity and decent work (v)  Peaceful and inclusive societies (vi)  Participation, accountability and gender-responsive institutions. There will be a series of on-line dialogues on the various themes in the run up to CSW 64 and during the commission. The GSIJP Office is engaging with the third and fourth themes: Poverty eradication, social protection and social services together with Inclusive development, share prosperity and decent work. These issues take account of may of the issues in our position paper on Economic Justice

The New York Times Articles ends with this “The rollback of women’s protections doesn’t impact just women but goes hand-in-hand with an overarching decline in human rights. Or, as the U.N. Human Rights Council put it: “The corrosion of women’s human rights is a litmus test for the human rights standards of the whole society.”

What is Generation Equality?

If you have been following social media over the few week you may have seen graphics and references to Generation Equality.

Generation Equality is the name of a process that will strive to give new impetus and a final push towards full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This was a ground-breaking vision and framework for Gender Equality, that came from the 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. It is quoted many times in our postion papers. The subtitle for Generation Equality is ‘Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future.’ Generation Equality Forum will be a global public conversation demanding urgent action and accountability for gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women. Generation Equality will celebrate the power of women’s rights activism, feminist solidarity and youth leadership to achieve transformative change. It is a global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-chaired by France and Mexico, with the leadership and partnership of civil society. The Forum will kick-off in Mexico City, Mexico, on 7-8 May 2020 and culminate in Paris, France, on 7-10 July 2020. A website for Generation Equality Forum is coming soon!

Here are two Powerpoints that will help explain the the process – Civil Society Deck and UN Women’s Gender Equality Deck They are easy to follow and may help you to understand the process. It is partly within the United Nations with the Commission on the Status of Women and partly outside the United Nations with the meetings in Mexico and Paris

The Commission on the Status of Women, 64th Session (CSW64) will take place from March 9 – 20, 2020 in New York at the United Nations Headquarters. The CSW will review how the 12 Critical areas have been implemented. These findings will flow into the Forum in Mexico and Paris, culminating in a High Level Event on the opening of the General Assembly, 75th Session in September 2020.

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

Already two of the United Nations Regional Commissions have had their meetings, one in the Economic Commission for Europe, Geneva, October 29th and 30th which was preceded by a Civil Society Day on Monday October 28th. Mirjam Beike, our representative in Geneva attended the three days. The UN ECE website has posted an article covering the meetings on the 29th and 30th.

Donatus Lili attended the UN Regional meeting for Africa, October 28 – 31st, 2019 which was hosted in the African Union Center in Addis Ababa. Donatus was a panelist at a side event on ‘Faith Based engagement in Africa.’ Here is a press release “Governments must deliver on the promises made to women in Beijing 25 years ago

Donatus Lili on left hand side of picture in white
Donatus sharing on Faith Based Engagement in Africa. She focused on Poverty Eradication, Social Protection and Social Services.

Gertrude Mongella , from Tanzania, a leading advocate for women’s empowerment and rights was Secretary General of the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing 1995. Gertrude attended the session in Addis Ababa where Donatus had the privilege of meeting her and having her photograph. Donatus’s participation in the conference was made possible by FEMNET – The African Women’s Development and Communication Network.

Donatus Lili with Gertrude Mongella

The global conversation on girls and women is centered around 6 themes which seek to bring together the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform. It is hoped that this will stimulate new intersectional thinking on how all issues are interrelated and connected one to another. The 6 cross cutting themes are: (i) Inclusive development, shared prosperity and decent work; (ii) Poverty Eradication, social protection and social services; (iii) Freedom from violence, stigma and stereotypes; (iv) Participation, accountability and gender-responsive institutions; (v) Peaceful and inclusive societies and (vi) Environmental conservation, protection and rehabilitation. Discussion on these themes has started at the regional level and will be part of the CSW 64 discussion. It is hoped to generate an Action Coalitions on some agreed topics which will be decided in Mexico and celebrated in Paris. You can get a overview of how the discussion went in this document It is divided into the 6 themes and covers the 12 critical areas from the African perspective.

A moment of voting!

The planned regional conference in Latin America and the Caribbean had to be cancelled due to political unrest in Chile. It has been rescheduled for the end of January 2020. Erika Sanchez had done an amount of preparation towards attending and 6 sisters and mission partners were registered. Unfortunately, Erika will not be able to attend in January due to other commitments. The conference for UN ESCWA in Beirut has been re-located to Amman, Jordan, again, because of political tensions in the region. It will take place on November 28th. See the Agenda On the same weekend, November 27 – 29 the regional conference for Asia Pacific will take place in Bangkok. See Website for information.

2020 is a year of anniversaries for the United Nations. The Beijing Conference is only one of them celebrating 25 years. The United Nations is celebrating its 75th birthday amid a lot of tension including some fractures of multilaterialism. On November 20, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is celebrating 30 years. Only a few weeks ago the historic Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security celebrated 20 years. It was first adopted on October 2020. The Resolution addressed the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women; recognized the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution, and peace-building. It also stressed the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security.

2020, is also the 75th anniversary of the Commission for Social Development  and the 25th anniversary of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development. 2020 is a crucial year for the accelerated realization of inclusive societies and reducing inequalities everywhere for people of all ages. UN Women celebrates its 10th anniversary and the Sustainable Development Goals are 5 years into being realized. All the various agenda overlap and yet inching our way towards realization continues to be a felt struggle especially for girls and women on all levels. Gender Equality, Women’s Human Rights, Women’s participation remain unrealized. The catch phrase of UNICEF for the 30 years anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is ‘For Every Child Every Right’. If this happened maybe we would be on the way to say ‘For Every Girl Every Right’ and that ‘For Every Woman Every Right’ would be a reality.

Concluding reflections on CSW 63

Last week at the April Meeting of NGOCSW Jourdan Williams and myself presented a brief overview of the CSW63 Agreed Conclusion. The Agreed Conclusions are in the 6 Languages of the United Nations. See

Link to PowerPoint Presentation

Shannon Mahedy a GSV (Good Shepherd Volunteer) attended the two week of CSW 63. She wrote a reflection paper on here experiences.

Inclusive Social Protection for Women and Girls: Best Practices and Equity

Winifred focused on social protection and the girl child. “Sister Winifred Doherty, Member of Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd spoke of male privilege, saying we are a long way from the realisation of the rights of the girl child. Females of all ages face vulnerabilities no matter where they live, from birth to 18, they are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations. Doherty spoke of the low value of the girl child and the many harmful practices such as FGM and forced marriage, and how women and girls are affected disproportionately by many global challenges such as climate change, conflict and migration. She spoke of cultural/sociological/traditional norms; with patriarchy as a root cause.” quote from the article. Read the full paper here

Moderating a panel with Member States – Bangladesh and Denmark on behalf of NGOCSW, NGO Committee for Migration, and the Peace Foundation. The event was entitled ‘Gender Violence: Prevention, Protection and Social Inclusion. Ms Kalliopi Mingeirou, Chief of Policy, Ending Violence Against Women, UN Women was a panelist also. Opening remarks were made by the Honorable Deputy Minister, Ministry of Education, Bangladesh Mohibul Hassan Chowdhoury MP and the keynote by Dr Abul Hossain

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