The 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women took place from the 13th to 23rd of March at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, with many side events taking place outside the premises of the UN in other locations around the city.
This 2-week programme is made by the principal global intergovernmental body that is exclusively dedicated to study, promote, and advocate for the empowerment of women and girls and gender equality around the world. It is a highly important occasion to document and report on the progress as well as the challenges facing women’s rights advocates, gender equality activists, and most importantly, women and girls themselves in all regions across the globe. This year’s theme has been chosen to be “Empowering Rural Women and Girls” (even though many international organizations and government representative opposed the idea of using the terminology “rural women”). The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
My involvement at the CSW was quite diverse. I was present on almost every day at the United Nations headquarters and other venues, attending conferences, side events, open discussions, speaking on panels, meetings with delegates and representatives of international organizations and CSOs, and as one might expect, with some politicians and “activists” who are not the strongest proponents of women’s rights, at least not all rights.
I had the great opportunity to speak with H. E. Naziha Laabidi, Minister of Women, the Family, and Children of Tunisia and show off our Tunisian women’s rights reforms in a room full of attendees from the MENA. I was also honoured to speak on violence against women and girls with Katja Iversen, President of Women Deliver, Dr. Natalia Kanem, Ex. Director of UNFPA, and H.E. Maryam Monsef, Minister of the Status of Women of Canada. Another indelible experience I had at CSW was meeting with Boko Haram survivors. Girls who were abducted by the terrorist entity, forced to marry as children, and experienced all kinds of horrors that one would usually see in a fictional film. But this was not fiction, it was real life. And the most bitter part about it is that it still happens to many other girls not only in Nigeria, but also around the world.
On the last day of CSW, March 23rd, the CSW member states have agreed on final conclusions that include a number of resolutions to be adopted in regards to the status of women in many countries, particularly those in conflict and under occupation. A few states were opposing the introduction and adoption of a few concepts that they did not perceive as human rights, most notably, women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, sexuality education, the empowerment of Palestinian women living under Israeli occupation, amongst others.
It was a perfect reflection of what actually happens on a larger scale in these kind of UN directed meetings. New conclusions have been approved by majority vote, and will now supposedly, but hopefully, go into action. The bottom line is, all these gathering and millions of dollars spent on such an event are not invested in for the sake of having a Commission on the Status of Women, but to speak on behalf of and empower the hundreds of millions of women in all corners of the world who did not make it to CSW or who do not know what CSW is. These women live lives of struggle, discrimination, restriction, and oppression, and if this CSW will not serve them, then it was nothing but a 2-week event at the United Nations in the city of New York.