Day Five of UNCSW

Thoughts from June Butler

 

 

The weekend is over and June Butler tells us all about her fifth day and the start of the 2nd week at UNCSW!

 

March 20th 2017,  New York

 

NGO briefing

The day started with the briefing and it was noticeable that there were so few of us compared with last week. A fact that was commented upon by the Chair who stated that most of the important negotiations were conducted in week two so it would be up to us to spearhead influencing the delegates in preparing the final agreed conclusions. No pressure then!

After we had established that the delegates had worked late into the night on the next draft, which had not yet been issued (lots of frustration here as it is unusual for the process to move so slowly!), discussion focused on the key areas to advocate. Gradually a list emerged coming from many quarters and varying NGO interests. The principal areas were: 

  • how to translate high-minded ideals into local law to bring about change
  • the need for higher priority to be given to data collection to provide empirical evidence to support arguments
  • how women can be moved to entrepreneurship
  • the need for better social protection for women and girls
  • the need for clearer and better strategies for the employment of care workers - for those caring for both the young and the elderly
  • the need for better flexible working arrangements for women
  • the importance of working with local politicians so that each  NGO's voice can  be brought to many political tables
  • The need for decent work for refugee women.

Two speakers from the stage particularly impressed me - a politician from New Zealand and a senior officer from the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The former asked that the focus in taking forward the draft agreement should be fivefold- human rights, women and girls with disabilities, the inclusion of girls in good quality education worldwide, the importance of equality for indigenous women, and the need for comprehensive  and relevant data collection). There was also lots of discussion about the process of implementing the agreed conclusions and how they should set an agenda for each country to enable them to clarify the future direction of their policy.  That session was an amazing start to the week and a great learning curve for me. 

 

Women, Faith and Economic Empowerment

This event was so crowded I had to sit on the floor! It was hosted by the Carter Centre about which I knew nothing and I now understand was set up by the former US president to help improve lives by resolving conflict, and advancing democracy and human rights. There were three keynote speakers and some of the stories were harrowing - pre-teenage pregnancies in the USA, prostitution and trafficking in New York City and the strong preference given to boys over girls in the provision of education in Nigeria. The messages were many and varied - but the need for faith groups and religious communities to stand up for human rights worldwide was emphasised. Two of the points I took from the session were the critical importance of sex education for all children and the importance of freedom from fear for vulnerable women and girls. And that of course leads me to the next question - what can MU do in these difficult areas? 

 

A Gender -Just and Sustainable Trade Agenda

I then went to another side event on women and Eco-justice hosted by a number of sustainable development groups. The session began with a short video pointing out some of the concerns of the women of India, El Salvador and the US - very graphic in terms of the affect of climatic conditions on growing food. A number of ladies spoke eloquently putting forward considerable research evidence on the impacts of international trade on women's empowerment in diverse countries and the human rights issues involved. The focus was on women as small farmers and food providers. It was one of the most intense sessions I attended largely because of the academic nature of the key speakers. 

 

Financing for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

This brought in many of the "big players" from African countries and was very interesting largely because I felt it turned quite competitive amongst them as to who had the biggest and best arrangements for gender responsive budgets. There must have been 150 people squashed into a room meant for 90 - the majority for the countries whose ministers were the main speakers. Each of the ministerial ladies (not clergy but government ministers!) explained how well each of their countries was introducing the economic empowerment of women in particular through their government's policies on gender responsive budgeting. 

The event concluded with a senior official from UN Women stating that we had to be sure that gender responsive budgets were included in the script of the final conclusions of CSW61 and how important it was to have women appointed as ministers of finance in their governments. She also returned to the ongoing mantra of nearly every event - the need to have good and consistent data to use as evidence. 

 

UK NGO briefing

Rose and I then attended this briefing where we had an update from the UK delegation as to how the negotiations were proceeding on the draft conclusions to CSW61. The second draft had been issued in the afternoon and there was still much work to be done. Many present made suggestions as to how the draft might be improved and it was hoped that the negotiators might take these on board when discussions on the draft commence again tomorrow. It seemed there was some lobbying to be done with representatives of other governments who were leading the groups debating the wording of various sections. We all now have the draft and need to spend some time reviewing and submitting comments to our delegates before the negotiations recommence tomorrow morning.

 

All of our MU group met for a debrief tonight and it was lovely to be able to spend a little while together listening to what each of us had to report on the events we had attended today. We also had some thoughts from Kikala about projects which she felt might be possible for MU in her homeland of Zambia. I loved her motto - "move from reflecting to action!" 

 

PRAYER POINTERS

  • We prayer that the draft conclusions continue to progress and that all relevant sections are included using the right language
  • We pray for all those remaining at CSW61 – that they will continue to influence the delegates as they prepare the final agreed conclusions
  • We pray that we can ALL look at ways in which we can move from reflecting into action