After a “day off” due to snowstorms, June Butler, one of our members in our delegation at UNCSW, tells us about her busy second day!
March 15th 2017, New York
This was really day two but after our imposed "rest" on Tuesday everyone seems to be trying to pack two days into one! It was a very full day and I managed to attend many events
Informal NGO briefing meeting
This was led by a formidable lady, the Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Others on the platform were from the Latin Americas and the Caribbean countries. The chair spoke about the various areas which were under consideration by UN Women and NGOs in the early drafts of the UN agreed conclusions for CSW61 including;
- The focus on appropriate work for women
- Anti-feminist agendas across the world
- Issues around movement building
- The gender pay gap
- Women being the main care providers
- Social protection for women at work
- Taxation - the need for proper redistribution of resources by governments to address women's issues.
There were lots of interesting questions from the floor about matters which delegates wanted to be addressed and/or strengthened in the agreed documentation. For me the most pertinent were a focus on education for both women and children, why children (particularly girls) were often withdrawn from education systems, the need for reference to the status of widows and senior women's issues. There was a lot more covered within the hour - a most stimulating discussion to start the day!
Women Human Rights Defenders who work for the Economic Empowerment of Women and Girls
Snappy title for a side event, don't you think? This was run by the governments of Tunisia and Norway, Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights. It was chaired by author Cynthia Rothschild. In introduction she and the speakers from the two countries touched on Human Rights advocacy, economic empowerment, health education for girls, decent employment for women, the sustainable development goals, and problems incurred by women in the workplace (including the need for accountability). Speaker Maryan Al-Khawaja spoke on the range of issues pertinent to her country many of which were very relevant to MU worldwide. She also reported on women who had not been able to attend CSW61 because of not being granted visas and she stressed the importance of promoting women's organisations to provide the highest levels of support and information to disadvantaged and marginalised women.
Year of Focused actions to Combat Violence against Women and Girls
I then attended this event organised by the EU. The year of action had interestingly been launched in November 2016 to coincide with 16 Days of Activism campaign. The event was chaired by the Director of Policy with UN Women. She said; “The focus of the EU campaign is to eliminate all violence against women”. She also was able to report on some of the progress which had been made to date. There were a number of fantastic speakers at this event but three things will remain with me the most;
- Victims of violence become the victims of homelessness when they are forced to enter refuge shelters - this is important to me as my diocese of Down and Dromore supports two such shelters in many positive ways
- The woman from the Netherlands who spoke so movingly about being a victim of abuse aged 12
- A young male student who asked at the very end what he and his friends could do to work to prevent violence against women - he got the loudest acclamation of the day!
Gender Equality Side Event
My final side event of the day was a side event run by Iceland which focused on equal pay and the development of an international logo to show this as well as equal opportunity in the workplace, women's leadership skills and the difference between those and the traditional skills of men, recruitment of women to boards of companies. There was the inevitable call for affirmative action to redress the current imbalance of men to women in top roles - one of my personal "hobby horses" for many years!
The Caucus for USA, Canada and European countries
Having worked in elections in Northern Ireland, I often wondered how a caucus actually worked in the US political system - and I'm not sure I'm any wiser! Anyway, it began with everyone stating their home state. The vast majority were Canadian, American or Dutch. The chair began by introducing the top table and asking the audience to share any intelligence they had from their member states about the state of negotiations on the draft agreed conclusions from CSW61. There were short reports from the EU briefing and that of Canada where most of the feedback was about the language used and the need for stronger emphasis on indigenous peoples, the elderly, widows, education, violence in the workplace, etc but the two main concerns were about those who had been unable to attend CSW because of the constraints imposed by the new US administration and the fact that that administration did not seem to be conversing with its NGOs. There was also some reference to the first draft of the conclusions and the role of UN Women in its creation. It was a passionate and lively Caucus for sure!
- Please pray for those who were not able to attend CSW61. Pray that they will continue their work towards gender equality and that they will still have the opportunity for their voices to be heard.
- We pray for the year of focus to combat violence against women and girls. We pray for all the work that MU do in this area, particularly our 16 Days of Activism campaign.
- We pray for all the leaders and delegates chairing events and meetings at UNCSW – we pray that they will guide discussions with wisdom and authority.
- With long days please pray for the MU delegation as we promote the aims and objectives of MU at this important platform - pray that we are energised throughout the day and rest well at night
Read all about June's thoughts for Day One and Day Three and Day Four