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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Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) March 12 – 23, 2018

 

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The Commission on the Status of Women commenced on Monday March 12.  It was preceded by the NGOCSW Consultation Day on Sunday March 11.  The team from the GSIJP office attended together with two of the Good Shepherd Volunteers,  Amore and Samatha and Nancy Fritche Egan (known to many of you) and her friends Eileen Reed, Diane Jordan, and Lucia Alcantara.

 

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It is impossible to be abreast of all the activities that CSW provides but one thing is sure we were constantly concerned about girls and women who live in rural areas and face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination throughout their lifecycle – the list is endless – poverty, food insecurity, violence, trafficking, sexual abuse, race discrimination, and violations of human rights.  We were advocating for the right to own, inherits, bequeath, manage and profit from land and productive assets; access to physical, mental, and reproductive health care and services, quality education, provision of credit facilities,  financial inclusion and social protection floors, zero tolerance of  abusive labour practices, human trafficking, prostitution, child early and forced marriage, rape, sexual harassment,  and female genital mutilation.  We seemed to be alternating between issues and groups that are discriminated against, widows, older women, indigenous women, girls, migrant women, low paid women, girls and women with disabilities, and mountain women and girls.  Concern was expressed about the lack of safe drinking water, water supplies, and scarcity and lack of adequate sanitation facilitates, hygiene facilities including menstrual hygiene management.  Other global issues like climate change, and armed conflict were also addressed.  The situation of women human rights defenders was  made ever more poignant by the assignation of Marielle Franco, a Brazilian activist, on March 14th in Rio De Janeiro.

The response from the 193 member states comes in the form of ‘Agreed Conclusion.’ They are being negotiated during this second week preparing the way towards commitments to girls and women living in rural areas to uphold all human rights, and implement economic and social policies for the empowerment of all girls and women, while strengthening girls’ and women’s collective voice, leadership and participation in decision making at all level.

The Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women this year is H.E. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason from Ireland.  We wish her success as she chairs the negotiations for the best possible outcome for girls and women. The opening of the Commission and all formal meeting were Webcast and can be accessed HERE

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The UN Secretary General had a townhall meeting with women gathered for CSW 62 and you can also follow how the #METOO campaign was brought forward.  The various panels addressed the various issues contained in the priority and review theme

  • Priority theme:
    Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls;
  • Review theme:
    Participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women (agreed conclusions of the forty-seventh session);

Engagement of Good Shepherd at the Commission was on a few levels responding to various invitations to engage and contribute.  Monique Tarabeh , communication in Rome submitted artwork for the NGOCSW handbook, GSIF office prepared an advertisement encouraging people to view MAHILA  The GSIJP Office prepared a statement to the Commission available in the 6 languages of the UN  Statement to CSW 62 and Mirjam Beike, NGO Representative to Geneva, currently in New York, drafted and presented an oral statement to the Commission on the girl child supported by 26 religious and faith based organizations.   Click on Mirjam to see the video.

Good Shepherd co-sponsored two side events one on human trafficking in collaboration with the Mission of the Holy See to the UN – read the summary HERE  “The common narrative of rural women lured into big cities by the false promises of traffickers and forced into sex slavery was described at the keynote speech of the conference by survivor Mely Lenario from the Philippines.” – A Good Shepherd Service in Cebu. –  Following Mely presentation there was standing ovation.  Webcast of the event

The second event was on water and was entitled ‘Wisdom, rural women and water, Unmuting women’s voices for integrated Water Policy’.  This event was prepared by the Mining Working Group and Cecilie live-streamed it on Facebook   Link to morning briefing webcasts that I participated in  Morning Briefing March 20 and  Morning Briefing March 22

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Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 11.39.50 AMSarah Benson from Ruhama (Ireland) and Coalition against Prostitution (CAP International) had a number of event which featured survivors of human trafficking as well as NGO’s and Members of Government.   The Mission of Ireland Webcast  led in ‘Presenting challenges and considering solutions to combat sex trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls (CSW62 Side Event)’   The Irish Ambassador to the UN Geraldine Byrne Nason paid tribute to the work of Sarah Benson.  Well done Sarah!   Grégoire Théry CAP International chaired the event.

Activities are multiple and complex engaging not just at the political level but also socially and in supportive roles with other NGO’s particularly the NGOCSW Committee.                                                                                                                                                                          Nancy & MirjamFor me this year I was very engaged in and committed to preparing for and following the an outcome document.  Mirjam represented us at the NGOCSW Reception on March 13th where she was photographed with Nancy Fritche Egan.  This event overlapped with the Coalitions Against Trafficking in Women’s reception which I attended,   The ARISE Foundations sponsored a reception on March 11th for religious engaged in anti-trafficking work.

Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 1.52.35 PMAnother side event entitled “#MeToo Say Survivors: Human Rights, Gender and Trafficking in Human Beings’ was held on 15 Mar 2018.  It was organized by OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, UN Women,  United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) together with Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) and Equality Now. Link to Webcast.   Some extraordinary survivors of prostitution and human trafficking shared their stories.  Mira Sorinvo, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador was also a panelist.  ‘#Metoo movement must represent trafficked and prostituted persons.’

 

On Saturday March 17th there was a strategy meeting with the Women’s Major Group in preparation for the High Level Political Forum which will take place in July.  Mirjam attended this also.  There was an opportunity to remember human rights defenders and all activists who engage on behalf of girls and women.  In the moment of reflection it was my privilege to remember our own Good Shepherd Auguchita, who gave her life too!  I did write her name and place it with the others.

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