By Bousso Diouf, Glindys Luciano, Erin Hampton, Emily Tafaro and Aakrati Gupta
Between 13 - 24 March 2017 the sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women was held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. NGO CSW held a parallel two-week forum on ‘Women and Girls Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work’. During this series of events there were panels of women from all around the globe explaining the hardship of what women go through in different areas of the world. During the weekend prior to the commencement of CSW a Youth Conference was held which focused on the same theme of the U.N. Commission, which included
the challenges and achievements of women in the economic world. The panels comprised of NGO advocates, they discussed the importance of investing in youth employment and addressing labor market inequalities. The panelists all came to the conclusion that the only way we can achieve the targets of the SDGs is by helping to address various topics that affect women and youth As Gulalai Ismail ( A Pashtun human rights activist and chairperson of Aware Girls from Pakistan. ) said, “When it comes to women empowerment, it's not about the resources, it's not about the market, it's about education”. We are going to look at these events through the eyes of the Nonviolence International New York interns who attended these parallel events.
Glindys Luciano went to the two-day youth CSW61 Conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. She had an amazing experience, during which over 2,000 feminists came together to talk about issues pertaining to women, especially to young women. What she found to be the most amazing part of the conference was the emphasis placed on young people,to achieve the SDGs goal by 2030. We, as young men and women, should be included in more of the decision-making processes especially considering that these decisions will affect us the most. One of the issues discussed, was the increase in jobs around the world but the low quality of these jobs which prevents young people from breaking out of cycles of poverty. This conference allowed youth from around the world the opportunity to have a seat at the table, ask questions, and create holistic dialogue.
Erin Hampton attended a UNCSW parallel Event titled ‘Empowering Women Cross-Culturally for Transformation”, where she learned about new methods of activism and empowerment The women leading the discussion were from various different backgrounds; Semhar Araia (UNICEF, Diaspora), Pumla Titus (International Anglican Women's Network), Dr. Jacqueline Ogega (Mpanzi Empowering Women and Girls Inc.) and author, Dr. Paula Nesbitt. While there were topics brought up such as, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and sexual assault, there was one overlaying topic that was the most important, listening. "Listening is an act of love". As women, the key to supporting each other is to listen to each other's stories and struggles regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, or age. Our struggles seem to be interrelated even with all our differences. For those struggles, we need safe spaces to communicate and to support each other as human beings. As Pumla Titus said, "Women have the answers, they know what to do." We just need to listen.
Bousso Diouf attended The Women's Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON) event on “Breaking Barriers to Empowerment of Rural Woman and Opportunities”. The discussion focused on platforms that are managed by women in rural areas. These platforms are organized by groups in the local community and in federations at the national level. They are real economic entities. This contributes enormously to their financial and social fulfillment . Women in rural areas in Nigeria are not protected as much as women who live in the city areas such as Lagos. These women have no education in finance and have a hard time keeping their money together. So at the event they talked about using the Togo Initiative. The initiative provides 30,000 Francs, cfa $50, to groups of women who want to develop an income-generating activity. I learned that rural women are regularly left behind in most third world countries, and they are likely to suffer the most from poverty and human rights abuses. It's time for governments to think outside the box to help rural women. Emily Tafaro attended the workshop organized by the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) The Organization provides training for female delegates and advocacy training for women, so that those who want it can gain the tools they need to feel confident to make their voice heard. Their Gender Climate Tracker App provides an incredible amount of data on women’s issues that is useful for any group concerned with women’s rights. While the speakers from WEDO pointed out the need for intersectionality between women’s issues and environmental ones, they also underscored the need for intersectionality across the board. All the Sustainable Development Goals are relevant to women’s issues and it’s incredibly important that women’s groups continue to push for their voices to be heard when discussing them.This event underscored the achievements Nepal has been making towards the economic empowerment of women and fulfilling their SDG targets. They’ve made great strides in getting women involved in the government, getting women to enter the workforce, and in enabling women to own property. By empowering women economically, they are reducing violence towards them because they are gaining independence. The ability to make some money and to have a job, allows women to leave violent domestic situations. With the aid of government programs more and more women are able to access the resources they need.
Aakrati Gupta, attended the side event on ‘Empowering Women as Change Agents in Sustainable Energy Value Chains.’ The panel had distinguished speakers from the NGO ‘Practical Action’, which has concentrated its efforts on providing renewable, locally-sourced, sustainable energy solutions like Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) and clean cooking gas in order to improve the lives of women. The panelists talked about their individual experiences in countries like Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan and Africa. It was humbling to hear about the everyday struggles of women to give one square meal a day to their children – to cook food on firewood because of the absence of other sources. However, NGOs like Practical Action and Solar Sister are providing clean LPGs and solar panels for electricity through local women entrepreneurs in these countries. These endeavors are not only helping women provide clean fuel and electricity for their communities but also helping them in becoming economically independent and empowered.
The overall experience at NGO CSW 2017 was heartening and awakening at the same time – the 400+ events spread over two weeks gave participants a peek into the problems women face in different parts of the world. What was reassuring were the solutions which we all as a society are trying to find and execute to make the lives of women better in each corner of the world.
Nonviolence International Interns Bousso Diouf - Junior at CUNY-College of Staten Island Glindsy Luciano - Graduate of Connecticut College Erin Hampton - The Sophomore at Pace University Emily Tafaro - Graduate of King's College LondonAakrati Gupta - Graduate of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law