In March 2019, 3 Indian Soroptimists- Renu Bhardwaj of SI Pune Metro East, Achina Kundu and Ayushi Kundu of SI Cacutta- crossed the shores to attend the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63). The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. During its annual two-week session, representatives of UN Member States, civil society organizations and UN entities gather at UN headquarters in New York to discuss progress and commit to further action. The outcomes and recommendations of each session are forwarded to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Commission’s parent body, for follow-up.
Here are the reports from the attendees:
It was an honour for me to be selected to attend CSW63 at the United Nations, New York, the largest annual Global Feminist Movement. For me, it was an empowering, enriching and motivating experience. It is here one realises that we are not alone in this fight for Gender Equality.
It gave me the opportunity to listen to all the policy-making luminaries at the General Assembly of the UN at a High-level Event on ‘Women in Power’
I got an insight into the Priority Theme: ‘Social Protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls’, where the focus was on minimum guarantees: Education, Health, Sanitation, public services, sustainable infrastructure, family planning, reducing sexual violence, working age for adults, basic income security, women to be part of decision making policies.
I learned a lot from speakers and activists at different parallel and side events how to move ahead the agenda on social protection, which is important and the National governments need to implement Sustainable Development Goals : 1 no poverty, 2 zero hunger, 3 good health, 4 quality education, 5 gender equality, 6 clean water, 8 decent work and 9 infrastructure.
I also had the opportunity to attend two major Youth Events: ‘Pre-CSW Youth Dialogue’ and ‘Take the Hot Seat’. Both the sessions had very powerful youth speakers and of them, one was the 2019 Woman of Distinction Award winner Gharsanay Ibnul Ameen from Afghanistan, she is the youngest awardees ever. She voiced the challenges faced by women and girls in her country, where terror and conflict is a reality every day. At these two events, all policymakers felt the need to engage youth in policy making and for them to exercise their rights. At ‘Take the Hot Seat’ there was a high-level Intergenerational Dialogue and this year the youth were 1st Generation at CSW and they wanted to make sure ‘We leave no one behind’. The youth had all the policymakers in the Hot Seat, where they wanted answers to their problems. As in the words of H.E Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of UN ‘Give young women tools and space, they can make their life’!
I got an opportunity to interact with delegates from different Countries and established great bonding. I met a lot of youth delegates and getting to know their perspective and their committed dedication to achieve their goals was so enlightening and I was moved with the passion and might of our youth and felt proud of them.
I also came back with lots of mixed emotions..very angry and agitated that for centuries we still fight for our basic fundamental Rights, so many policies are made but very little has changed at ground level. Where is the system of accountability??? There were also those proud moments when looked around and saw a sea of women, with the same agenda and same priorities.
Of the several cherished experiences that Soroptimist has gifted me with, the most notable is being selected as a SIGBI delegate to attend CSW63. The overwhelming affair was made relatively comforting by the presence of my mother, Achina Kundu, who was also selected to attend CSW63.
On the 11th of March 2019, I was standing in front of one of the shorter of the endless sky-kissing buildings in Manhattan, like a picture straight out of the political science books I had read once as a school student …the United Nations Headquarters. Of the whirlwind of emotions and feelings I felt at that time, one was of surreality. It took me a while to digest the fact that I was there, attending a conference at the United Nations, the temple for all human rights lawyers and activists.
The week passed in a flurry, like every other good thing coming to an end in the bat of an eyelid. But new lessons came in each step of the way. To be in an institution with 9000 other women and men, who are all there with a single motive…to make this world a better place for women…made me feel powerful. But it enraged me at the same time.
Year after year, an assembly as such has to be convened to fight for the rights of women….to assess the progress made by the Member States in giving effect to their rights…to evaluate what further steps are required to be taken to ensure that women’s rights are not bypassed. Never in the history of mankind were any such assemblies or actions required to be taken for men’s rights…why? The answer lies in the fact that their rights have always been considered inherent…but why don’t women’s rights receive the same acknowledgment, even in this day and age? The CSW is a grim reminder of the several future sessions that require to be convened in the long road to the emancipation of women.
The CSW this year considered social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality, as its priority theme. While the main events focused on gathering reports from MS and deliberating on the actions that needed to be taken, the parallel sessions highlighted the work done by CSOs in the light of the theme. That women remain hopeful and don’t give up, is a huge encouragement.
The paucity of time forced me to be selective about the events I attended, out of a huge list of events I wanted to attend. The two which were most exciting for me and grabbed the front seat are:
- The Townhall Meeting of the Secretary General with CSOs: HE The Secretary General discussed the changes he had introduced within the UN to push back against the ‘push-backs’ that women continue to face. Read more about it in my blog: https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/pushing-back-against-the-push-back/
- The HOT SEAT: A High-Level Intergenerational Dialogue: ‘Take the Hot Seat’ was one of the youth events at the CSW where government officials and policymakers were put in the Hot Seat and had to answer questions from youth delegates. Read more about it in my blog: https://sigbi.org/members/2019/csw63/
The several parallel events I had the chance to attend left a lasting impact on me. In these sessions, discussions were also held about the rights of indigenous women, older women, and women with disabilities.
I had my own chance to contribute as a panellist in one of the sessions: ‘What is True Justice: Intersection of Education and Entrepreneurship’. As the title suggests, the session focused on how encouraging women to become entrepreneurs make them independent and economically self-sufficient. I discussed the importance of bringing more women into the STEM sector and highlighted the Indian perspective. You can read more about it here: https://sigbi.org/members/2019/csw63/
Attending CSW63 left me feeling driven and hungry to take action. There is a lot one can do to make a difference, even in individual capacity. Start with small steps. You do not need to be a part of an organisation to fight against the discriminations women face.
‘Our future will become the past of other women, and girls, you are that other women!’
Read more blogs from CSW63: