The annual Commission on the Status of Women 65th session started with the NGO Forum on Sunday March 14th – setting the scene. Last year because of the outbreak of COVID 19 the session was cancelled but this year all took place virtually. Planning took place throughout the year. The most exciting part of this was the development of a virtual platform by the NGOCSW Committee members in New York. This platform was enabled by ‘Pathable Virtual Event Platform.” The platform permits for multiple live zoom connection to be happening simultaneously and a feature of it is the Virtual Tradeshow Booth. The Good Shepherd International Justice Peace Office, my colleague Alexis Schutz and I, explored the possibilities of having a Virtual Booth and then invited GSIF, MDO – Asia Pacific, Latin America and the NGO Regional Designates to a planning meeting at the end of January to discuss possibilities. The members of the planning committee undertook responsibility for their regions. A very rich comprehensive program was designed and multiple issued were addressed from North to South and East to West. Many were livestreamed on Facebook and others on YouTube. Many recordings have been uploaded to https://winifredd.wordpress.com and can be viewed on blog postings of March 14, 16, 23 and 27. Issues addressed were varied and included the following – Understanding the Impacts of COVID 19 on Vulnerable Australian Women; Women’s Economic Empowerment, Ending Violence against Girls and Women, including 4 session on Obstetrics Fistula, Migration issues from Latin America and Europe. My favorite was the 5-hour girls’ program from Asia Pacific – hosted by girls, moderated by girls, concerning girls’ issues and participation at all levels. How insightful and informed these girls are –truly leaders for the future coming from all countries of Asia Pacific. At the conclusion of my night vigil in New York at 6.30 am on Saturday morning (began at 1.30 am) I closed my intervention with “now dismiss your servant in peace as my eyes have seen ….” This was followed at 11.00 am with a session from Madagascar again focusing on girls and with a recording of girls giving their viewpoints and opinions.
The Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd – New York/Toronto and Ecuador prepared the Women’s Sanctuary Space for Monday March 15th with specially pre-recorded prayer reflections.
I hosted a “Let’s Talk Series” for one hour each day covering various topics from Social Protection Floors, CSW Agreed Conclusion, Ending Violence Against Women, Generation Equality Forum, Migration, Sustainable Development Goals, St Patrick’s Day. Alexis hosted Let’s Talk Girls with Patricia and Maddie who are Good Shepherd Volunteers in the New York/Toronto Province.
An entry point for Good Shepherd, Europe was on the topic of Migration when my guests were Ivanna Youtchak, Coordinator of the Euro Project, and Gabriele Spina from Catania Italy, and Director of Migration in Il Nodo, Catania and Acireale. What great work around ‘integration’ of migrants into local communities and fascinating insight into how programs adjusted and provided for the needs of migrants all during these pandemic times. A video ‘Whatever it Takes’ was specially prepared by Good Shepherd, Italy for this occasion.
Sr Mirjam Bekie, our NGO Representative in Geneva contributed a repeat session on Obsteric Fistuala, creating awareness of the problem and sharing on advocacy work in colaitions in Geneva. She also presented in the RENATE Sessions on Human Trafficking.
The issue of Human Trafficking with its multiple stakeholders and strategies was very well covered on the platform. APT/AMRI engaged in 2 sessions facilitated by Noreen O’Shea, Ireland, available on their YouTube Channel. RENATE – the European network of religious committed to work together against human trafficking and exploitation – of which Sr. Marie Helene Halligon (France) is a staunch member, facilitated 9 X 2-hour sessions over the two weeks. All Session can be viewed on their YouTube Channel
On Friday 26th the final meeting of the Commission was postponed until 5.00 p.m. and some wonder if there will be any agreed conclusion! Yes, just after 6.00 p.m the Commission resumed and there are Agreed Conclusion! Agreed Conclusions are one barometer indicating support for women’s human rights. While very welcome, they do not reflect an adequate response to the urgent call of the UN Secretary General on the opening day of CSW 65, to realize women’s rights fully, ensure equal representation, advance women’s economic inclusion, asking for funding, policies and political will to end all gender-based violence and give space to girls and young women to transition into future leadership. What could the member states be the negotiating about you might ask?
The terms gender, gender identity, women in all their diversity, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence, sexual identity, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and human rights defenders give rise to various interpretation – ranging from a human rights perspective to religious, cultural, and moral principles and objections. Concept on motherhood, maternity, paternity, family, role of family in society, gender as defined as male or female, marriage only between a man and a women are pitted against human right to self expression and ability to make choices are amoung the contentious issues. Other political issues surface – e.g invoking national sovernighty, whereby national laws, and religious laws are to be respected and upheld. Considerations that the agreed conclusion attempt to address a broad ranges of issues which were not the subject matter of the theme eg. climate change, women’s health, human trafficking, and unilateral financial trade agreement was also raised. There was reference to the Security Council Resolution 1325 being deleated from the document amid concerns about the impacts of conflict on girls and women and that there were attempt to unpick long standing commitments. See Global Sisters Report
But women and the women’s movement are undaunted and now have the opportunity to forge ahead towards the launching of the ‘Generation Equality Forum’ which will start in Mexico on Monday March 29th for three day. The action now is towards full equality, and full peace, in prosperity for all, challenging all to stand as citizens, in a shared solidarity for the future we want. To end, NGO CSW65 passed the torch to Generation Equality at a ‘Joyful Disruption Rally’ with girls and women from around the world determined to realize a new future despite the paralysis in the agreed conclusion negotiations. Read the Advanced Unedited Verson of the Agreed Conclusion
Good Shepherd Asia Pacific Website have access to all their events during NGOCSW 65 Virtual Plaform HERE They also provide links for Latin America on their Facebook Page and RIMOA are on the GSIF YouTube Channel. This is a wonderful testimony to the many and varied ministries of the Congregation.
In total live programs were facilitated on the platform for 66 hours over the two weeks. 114 identified Good Shepherd Sisters and partners were registered on the NGOCSW65 Virtual Booth and made a total of 1,696 visits to the platform. RENATE had 8 identified representatives who made a total of 150 visits. APT had 7 identified representatives who make a total of 86 visitis. There were 320 visitors to the booth of whom 114 are identified as partners, 85 unidentified and 121 familiar NGO Colleagues and other unknow NGOs. The number of visits ranged from 1 visit to 264 visits. 99 guests were one time visitors only, 30 guests vistied a second time, and 22 guests made a third visit. Administrators tended to have higher numbers of visits 92, 90, 87, 70, 60, 63, 46, 45, 42, 41, 38, 34, 33, 31, 28, 26, 22, although a few within this range were visitors to the virtual booth.