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Programme Director’s April 2021 Message

A momentous two weeks

For two weeks towards the end of March some of us traipsed off to New York – virtually, of course! This meant that we had 8 times as many delegates as usual at the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Those registered only for the NGOCSW parallel events, outside the UN, are not known so I suspect there were even more there. Great support and, from our post event survey of UN delegates, over 95% have said that the overall experience was of value in their work for SIGBI. A great result – but there is still much to do! There are blogs from some delegates on our website – well worth reading even those of us who were there – a chance to read about sessions we did not manage to attend and to hear the reactions of new and experienced delegates about their experience.

Each year there is a main theme plus a review theme. Our government negotiators try to reach agreement on an outcome statement. They do not succeed every year but this year they have done so. It was a close call and some countries might add reservations at some point in the future.

The advance unedited version of the Agreed Conclusions is available here.

It is up to us all to hold our governments to account! Thus, statements made by them at UN sessions such as CSW, can be used to do so.

At the moment some of our focus has to be on the Istanbul Convention and the threat, from Turkey, to resile from it. UN Women is urging Turkey to reverse this threat. There is a period of 3 months before it actually happens so now is the time to show solidarity with our sisters in Turkey as requested by soroptimists there. President Anna of SI Europe has encouraged this on her web page. The UK Government has signed the convention but not ratified it – the UK Programme Action Committee continues to lobby for this and other related issues.

Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) has become the pandemic, hidden behind the coronavirus pandemic. We cannot afford to let the rights for which we have strived mightily slip away from us – wherever we live. This includes people fleeing their own countries and seeking sanctuary elsewhere. This was illustrated by our webinar during CSW65. If you missed it, it is on YouTube. Make space in your diary to watch and learn, please.

We need more women in leadership positions and SI Esperance in the Caribbean presented their DigiGirls project in the Soroptimist International parallel session. They worked with Microsoft to help girls understand that there are jobs in ‘science’ – putting them in a good place to influence and lead in the future. The whole SI event is on YouTube.

This is a call to all soroptimists, our friends and women equally concerned about the current situations to join us in not allowing retrogressive moves to overtake us! Take action wherever you are, from local to global, and ensure a better future for succeeding generations!

Kay Richmond
SIGBI Director of Programme