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

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”

Reflecting on the outcome document of CSW 62

CSW 62 W 3The Commission on the Status of Women –  annually the most well attended event of the UN Calendar – with women for all walks of life coming to the United Nations, New York to advocate basically for the human rights of women and girls. I find a certain tension in the agreed conclusion between the need to address ‘all’ women and girl including those living in rural areas  Paras 2, 3, 14, 25, 26, 32, 41, 42, (c) (l) (aa) (jj) and (ww)  when in fact this year was specifically dedicated to ‘Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women girls.’  Maybe this is reflective of the dynamic tension, enthusiasm, and controversy concerning gender equality that is evoked from start to finish of the Commission.  Is there a fear that some women and girls – ‘those furthest behind’ – might gain at the expense of the whole?  This is impossible as the pre-ambular paragraphs only reference previously agreed, international law and frameworks from CEDAW to Beijing to the Sustainable Development Goals and the agreed conclusion are what they are ‘agreed conclusion’ and not legally binding.

Read the CSW62 Agreed Conclusion – Advanced Unedited Version

While the focus was specifically on ‘rural women and girls,’ yet prior to the commencement of the Commission the was a sense of unease about the meaning of the  phrase ‘rural women and girls.’   A suggestion was made many times that the phrase ‘women and girls living in rural areas’ would be much more acceptable – focusing on the intersection of women and girls and the very specific geographic location where they are living.   While much advocacy was done to have the terminology changed,  the bureaucratic institution of the United Nations approves the concepts used and ‘women and girls living  in rural areas was not one of them’! Likewise girls living in rural areas, while appreciating their visibility in the document,  would like to see their human rights issues addressed specifically and separately  from women focusing on the intersectionality of discrimination against girls and a specific geographic area, the ‘rural’.   Another bureaucratic hurdle for another time.

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Interesting in reviewing the document there are a few times when the phrase ‘women and girls living in rural and remote areas’ – Paras 36, 37 and (aaa) – has been incorporated into the  document – so maybe we as advocates have some new agreed language – referencing these agreed conclusion going forward.  An NGO group advocated to have reference to ‘mountain’ women in the agreed conclusion so I wonder how they feel with ‘remote areas’?  Does that include them?

I found some reflections and comments on the agreed conclusion.  UN Women had this headline –  UN Commission on the Status of Women delivers a blueprint to ensure the rights and development of rural women and girls.   ‘Food security and nutrition, land water, food, work and a life free of violence and without poverty as main issues to tackle.’

Soroptomist International had a reflection contrasting disappointment and rejoicing. One Group sorely disappointed were Widows for Peace through Democracy who were advocating for the inclusion of widows in the agreed conclusion knowing first hand the multiple and intersecting discriminations widows in rural areas experience.

Femnet – the African Women’s Development and communication network commented that CSW62  ‘It is rejuvenating, reenergizing and exciting to have such a progressive outcome document out of CSW…’   If you read on you will see their summary of  gains and losses.   One loss  is that labour rights for women was not shifted to the global level.

Vigil CSW 62We have a comprehensive, complex and eclectic agreed conclusions but where does one begin to implement and  evaluate?  Who is implementing what, where and how?  Apart from the preamblur paragraphs and the closing paragraphs there are three main section:

  • (i) the normative, legal and policy framework
  • (ii) implement economic and social policies for the empowerment of all rural women and girls.  But this begs the question which economic and social policies do we specifically need for women and girls.  Maybe the answers are in OP’s  (m) to (iii) What of environmental policies – the effects of climate change, climate induced migration  etc?
  • (iii) Strengthen collective voice, leadership and decision making.   During the first week of CSW 62 we were confronted with the murder of Mariella Franco.  The issue of the inclusion of Human Rights Defenders in the agreed conclusion was contentions up to the end mentioned in Para 42 and OP (rrr).

Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 1.39.44 PMAre the two weeks of  CSW merely a time of playing around with words, engaging in political rhetoric,  maintaining national sovereignty and entrenched cultural and religious positions, while being blind, deaf, and unmoved to action  by the daily suffering caused by  poverty,  hunger, and violence that women and girls living in rural areas experience.   The continual lack of food, threats to food security,  no social protection, no land rights, scarcity of water, lack of provision of health care, education and decent work coupled with natural disasters and climate induced migration are features of the feminization of poverty.  A concluding paragraph in Rev 1 of the agreed conclusion read ‘ The Commission call upon Governments to heed the urgent United Nations humanitarian appeal to assist counties facing drought, starvation and famine with emergency aid and urgent funding, and underlines that, if no immediate response is received, an estimated 20 million people, most of whom are women and children, risk losing their lives.’  This paragraph was not in the final document!  READ more …

My answer to the the question I posed above is that such debate at the global level is not only necessary but vital to inching forward gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women living in rural areas.  Action is taken by the very same women who come to CSW year after year.  In the case of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd see our documentary out of India  Mahila – A Women’s Movement Rising

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