All the latest news from CSW61 – 13-24 March 2017

CSW61 Latest

Read the full report on CSW61 and Analysis of the Agreed Conclusions here.

Read the blog written by Margaret Clark on CSW61 here.

CSW61  Why come to CSW?

Margaret Clark – Assistant Programme Director for Advocacy

The Commission for the Status of Women is the largest global intergovernmental forum on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

It is so inspiring, knowing how women’s organizations are improving women’s rights in so many countries throughout the world. Women talk to each other and civil society actors, and bring facts to the table to inform about women’s needs and priorities. The collective power of the women’s movement is used to push the agenda being set

CSW helps in building our own capacity as civil society to engage in political spaces. Delegates see how the UN operates; how governments work together to influence the language in the outcome statement and how countries can vote on issues.  For example the initial draft document mentioned ‘women workers’ but did not mention ‘domestic workers’, a major point for negotiation for women’s economic empowerment. The government were approached to amend the text. Once the CSW adopts the outcome it can be taken back to national governments and they can be held to account.

Government are here to work for us – be bold for change!

As a human rights and gender equality advocate, I think having all these women coming here to advocate for our common issues makes a difference.

CSW 61 Agreed Conclusions

The 61st Commission on the Status of Women was successful at reaching its Agreed Conclusions at 5.00pm on Friday 24 March 2017.  The final agreed document can be read below.  Please also see the closing remarks by the UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka:

  1. Agreed Conclusions
  2. Closing speech by Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka

Blogs from The sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61)

Friday 24 March – Margaret Clark

CSW61 is at its height intense work progressing by the UN Representatives on the Agreed Conclusions, but they are not all united at present –  negotiation skills essential!!

Family, Sovereignty  and SRHR are causing contention , some countries are being extremely difficult. Education has been agreed although we haven’t seen the final wording in the text.

At 5pm last night (Thursday) they had finalised about a third of the document and continued to work on it until 5am this morning!

Presently we are observing the negotiations and at 12 noon will liaison with our Government’s official contact. The chair will end the session and if negotiations are inconclusive the chair will table, ‘a take it or leave it’ text.

So a ‘No deal’ could be possible.  Suspense!!

Wednesday 22 March – Ann Reeves

Confessions of a CSW Virgin

Confessions of a CSW virgin – A week in New York at the UN

ann reeves event

Having never been to CSW  before I was both excited and nervous. Everyone was telling me how great it was, but not really why it was. So…. the first thing to say is that to start with it is really confusing. There are so many events, and a number of different venues, and they don’t all use the same timings, so deciding where you are, where you want to be, how to get there and when is daunting. You then decide that if someone will point you in the right direction you’ll be ok. Luckily Jan Hemlin took me under her wing the first day and told me where to go, and Kay Richmond directed me to the electronic “Guidebook” which listed all the side events which could be attended and allowed a personal schedule to be drawn up. Very helpful

The orientation meeting was like the curate’s egg, good in parts. There were parts which were very informative, and made sense of the overall event, such as the explanation of how written papers could be submitted, by whom, and what subsequently happens to turn this into recommendations at the UN. Information on what we needed to concentrate on advocacy on seemed less relevant. If you go to CSW you probably have a good idea of which issues are paramount, and different organisations will have different foci anyway.

Barnados, supported by SIGBI, held a very informative event “Good jobs for Young People” at which a panel of young women (one only 16) spoke very professionally and inspiringly about the need to ensure that young omen are encouraged into all fields of work, especially those seen traditionally as “male”. One of the statements that came up again and again at th different events was the need for women to support, mentor and encourage each other, not to put each other down.

On Monday evening we attended the SI reception which was an opportunity to network with other Soroptimists from around the world.

Tuesday was SNOWDAY!!!!!!! They forecast a blizzard so the UN closed for the day, along with transport and much else. I felt very sorry for those whose events were meant to be on Tuesday, all that work. They rearranged as much as they could, but some things could not be held, and inevitably events clashed.

On Wednesday I attended 3 events:

  • ActionAid presenting their new report “Double Jeopardy: Violence against women and Economic Inequality, followed by a panel presentation and discussion looking at links between VAWG and economic inequality.
  • The SI organised event, supported by Zonta, Each Federation presented a selection of their project work, showcasing the range and diversity while following the Educate, Empower Enable framework. The room was unbelievably crowded. There was a consensus that suggested that we should look at the possibility of working on some projects with Zonta.
  • The International Women’s Alliance event was “Sexism in the Workplace”. This was a lively series of presentations and discussion but unfortunately while one of the audience asked “how are you defining Sexism?” The question was never actually answered. Most of the panel explained what their organisation was doing in practice, but made no reference to stopping sexism, just to empowering women so they could deal with it. Rather disappointing.

In the evening we were all invited to a reception held by the UK representative to the UN. Another opportunity to network, this time with other UK NGOs.

On Thursday I went to 2 events (after a while brain ache and mental indigestion start to set in!)

  • Global Network of Women’s Shelters presented the range of work they do in a number of countries to both help women to escape domestic abuse and to rebuild their lives on leaving the shelter. I was immensely impressed by the work developed by the American network for financial management education. It is a complete curriculum “Moving Ahead through Financial Empowerment” , which is available also in a Spanish translation, and is downloadable free from iBooks. The entire syllabus is there and I did think that if it was adapted for the UK it could make an invaluable additional tool for Women’s centres etc.
  • It Starts with Safely was a panel of young women from around the globe talking about the importance of safety. The main point being that if young women do not feel themselves to be safe they cannot and will not engage with global problems or feel themselves to be empowered to make changes. Also it is important to ask questions and listen to the answers and not ASSUME that we know what is wanted or needed.

So, finally we reach Friday. I’m feeling good, confident that I know where I’m going and what I’m doing. Then….. I meet up with Jan and Kay to go into the main UN building. I’ve been in earlier in the week to look around, but not to any of the sessions. This time it’s a meeting in a huge auditorium with the Secretary General present. He speaks, there are questions, he answers. This is great. This really feels like why we are here. He says all the right things about women’s empowerment, gender parity etc etc. I am cynical by nature, but this sounds good. I’m really pleased I got into this session.

After this I plan to go back to the Church Centre, where many side events are, for what sounds to be an interesting session. Only to find out that I’m not as clued in as I thought as I’ve misread the initials of the venue and I’m in the wrong place. Too late to go across to the right place so I go into another session. This one about domestic workers and paid care work. Interesting, but not what I was planning on. I also realise the event I had planned to attend in the afternoon is not where I thought. Hum. Ok. Rethink this. I’ll go to a different event. This one about education for married girls and those at risk of marriage.

So, at the end of the week, how do I feel about CSW?

Well, it’s been stimulating, energising, confusing, enlightening, inspiring confusing again……

I’m really please I came. I feel I have a better understanding of SI working globally, both with SI clubs and UN and other NGOs. I need time to sift through all my thoughts and experiences, but overall the experience has been good. Very good.

Would I come again? Like a shot!!!!

Wednesday 22 March – Michelle Cave


Intersectionality Session

One of the first side events of the CSW this year was the much sought after Intersectionality conversation. It was well worth the wait and sttuggle to get through the doors!  The panel gave us a wide overview, then brought it home to a development paradigm.

Intersectionality is a concept developed in1989 by Kimberley Crenshaw, a black american activist, arguing that blacks are not truly seen. She suggested that applying this to all people, we can see many compounding layers. She argued that there were layerered effects to everyone that made the labelling of what the eye thought it saw, folly.

As an example, she put the black female at the middle of an intersection… She added class, lived realities, culture, sexuality, sexual choice, economic advantage/disadvantage…the divisions or layers were endless.

She noted that when we categorise ourselves, it is to create a framing of ourselves that only we can do, no one else can. Calling one self a white woman or black woman, a white man or a black man, is suggesting that all of the other races and experiences making you up, are lesser than or not as important as.

None of us are just one thing , the panel argued. Everyone is an intersectionality of experiences.  Arguing that intersectionality needs to be applied to every aspect of development, their case became clearer.

They suggested that when we look for instance at the underground economies or informal economies of all of our countries, we will find many different kinds of people. They are often women. The communities are often  vulnerable to overpolicing. They are often open to abuse – economically, sexually, socially – gender expectations oppress us all.

The panel suggested that we are made up of learned and inherited experiences.Personal experiences vs what we learn… are always at play. When we begin to put an intersectionality lens on our development work, we will see the valuing of everyone’s work rising.

With an intersectional lens, we realise our public or professional extends beyond our personal experiences.

Intersectionality is a way to look at the world through diverse eyes or better, diversity…we can no longer lump a woman in a category called women and men in a category called men.  We have to see their perspectives.

Tuesday 21 March – NIsha Ghosh

Towards a more Feminist United Nation

The International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW)had a side event at CSW 61, which looked critically at Towards a more Feminist United Nation. He assigned women to top positions Amina Mohammed from Nigeria as UN Deputy Secretary General, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, a senior Brazilian to serve as Guterres’ Chief of Staff, and Kyung-wha Kang of South Korea, appointed as special adviser on policy and to oversee the transition team. Till then women filled less than one in four leadership positions at the UN.

In a paper published in Sept 2016, ICRW and distributed at the event, the question that looms large is the UN really applying its role as the upholder of “faith in fundamental human rights , in dignity and worth of the human person, in equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.”?  Yes, this august body has initiated and supported path breaking changes in countries worldwide including the UN Convention on CEDAW, the Beijing Platform for Action, Security Council Resolutions on Women Peace and Security. With the SDGs “the UN has made space for nations large and small” Within the parameters of the goals women and girls and traditionally marginalized groups such as indigenous persons and disabled are better represented- and truly a collective global heave towards targets happened for the first time in UN history.

Yet, ICRW faults the world body for not putting its visionary commitments to gender equality in its internal policies and practices. It states that the UN is not immune to gender discrimination.  This was particularly interesting in the light of the fact despite strong female contenders -most of them were voted out. The call for a real shift in power away from a Northern and traditionally male dominated member states towards a more feminist United Nations. Without this structural change several pitfalls lie ahead in terms of social, economic, and ecological failures, but most importantly “the UN risks its own irrelevance”.

The conversation moves on to the recommendations for various levels of the UN. – Removal of gender barriers in hiring and promotional polices for one. Another issue of contributing member states to a specific UN entity, having the advantage of holding positions of power leading to disproportionate representations throughout the system. Then there are several suggestions on gender parity in the Cabinet, to UN agencies, countries to be genuinely pledged to CEDAW, see that “gender equality is both programmed by UN agencies as well as within the internal system operations and processes”. In today’s context the financing of gender based programmes is highlighted“, ensure that at least 30 percent of current spending is dedicated to women’s rights and gender mainstreaming throughout the system.

Finally, at CSW, the shrinking space for civil society activists and increasing influence of the private sector is disturbing. The organization urges a reformation of annual meetings of CSW to increase intentional spaces for civil society dialogue –  and convene a plural advisory council that allows for rotating reps of civil society, unions and private sector.

For Soroptimists such a paper can be valuable guidelines to push the agenda for better representation at CSW and push harder for CSW to be held at other UN regions and alternately- .  New York city. This would allow more delegates, better representation, and assured visas. No longer would that symbolic chair be empty as was at the UN SG’s briefing .!

Tuesday 21 March – Pepsie Adiukwu

Empowering Indigenous African Women To Combat Cervical And Breast Cancers.

Pepsie Adiukwu and Florence AjimobiIn her presentation, Florence Ajimobi (JP) explained how the indigenous African woman can be given a fighting chance against breast and cervical cancer, She said: “The first and perhaps most critical step in the fight against cancer is the
socio-economic empowerment of the African woman. Without this, she is a sitting duck…. The girl child has to be educated. African women must have equal opportunities as our men and all forms of gender bias have to be eliminated.”

Research stats states that: Less than 50% of Nigeria’s over 170 million population have access to basic healthcare.
85% of the 500.000+ women diagnosed with cervical cancer each year are in low and middle income countries.

She went further to say that the Government of many African countries have developed blueprints towards instituting effective control plans but have been hampered by limited resources and conflicting needs. She emphasized the need for a concerted effort; a coordinated and systematic approach that incorporates and utilizes the strengths of all the relevant stakeholders.

Dr Sola Oriniowo in his presentation stated that there is an urgent need for the development of critical infrastructure and facilities for cancer care in Africa. He said that of the 53 countries in Africa, only 21 have at least 1 radiotherapy machine and less than half of those machines are fully functional at any point in time.

This CSW61 parallel event was sponsored by ‘Access to Basic Medical Care Foundation, an NGO founded by Mrs Florence Ajimobi wife of the Governor of Oyo State, Nigeria. The foundation was established to provide free and quality primary care services. In addition, the foundation is a cancer advocacy and awareness group and provides subsidized screening services for breast, cervical, prostate and colorectal cancers.

Monday 20th March – Soroptimist International – Interactive Expert Panel

One session, on 20 March 2017, saw an interactive panel of five experts from national gender equality mechanisms, academia, civil society organisations and national statistical offices discuss, Enhancing availability and use of data and gender statistics to support accelerated implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This was followed by comments and questions from Member States and other stakeholders, including Soroptimist International. Read more about this session.

Friday 17th March – Nisha Ghosh – Velvet Revolution

nisha1The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) is a professional organization of working women in the electronic and print media. As an NGO has Consultative Status with the ECOSOC, it collaborates with media organizations to strengthen initiatives to ensure women’s views are an integral part of the media.

At the event organized by IAWRT, Velvet Revolution, a powerful documentary film was screened followed by an interaction with two of the four female directors. Following the priority theme of CSW61 the film looks at changing world of work for women journalists. The job of a journalist is to report truthfully, not be intimidated or neutral and compromise on the facts. In the changing world of work the job of bringing the truth to the public domain is laden with challenges of a new kind. Women journalist no longer are writing only about paediatric problems, fashion fads, home décor and food. In fact, they have gone beyond even focussing merely on ‘women issues’.

velvet revolution poster1Today, women are testing the boundaries of journalism itself. Why can’t a woman report from a war zone, or from a strife ridden tribal region, why can’t she foray into drug infested the slums, or simply be part of a grass roots movement that is inspires caste discriminated women to work on a daily newspaper that report that spills the beans on discriminatory social structures?

Velvet Revolution deals with how and why reporters take risks to get close to the action, and the vital role women can play in bringing truth to light. This 57minute film, focuses on women journalists from several countries. Dogged by repressive governments Kimberlie Ngabit Quitasol, a young woman journalist from Philippines questions, “The President is wrong when he says that journalists are being killed because they are corrupt- who corrupts whom… who holds the power to corrupt?” Her entire paper has been tagged by the ruling regime as pro-terror. Malini Subramanuim has relentlessly reported on the injustices to the indigenous Baster community in India. Caught between the security forces and the the pro-communist elements raiding the backward region they live, it’s a free for all there. Suppressed, intimidated and finally attacked she left the region with her young daughter continuing her work online. For her fearless work Malini was awarded the She was later recognised by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists. Malini is a thorn for the state forces, by her constant reporting of the plight of the Bastar community.

In a country, Afghanistan dogged by warlords, Najiba Ayubi ran Killad group a non-profit media network that includes two of the country’s most popular magazines and eight radio stations with a total of 12 million listeners – As a journalist, activist and woman -she knew what she was up against – but  did not let herself be intimidated. When a police chief told her, “You realize you are a woman, don’t you,” she responded by broadcasting the report he wanted to suppress.

Zaina Ehram a Syrian Journalist said, “I did not want to be a war correspondent… but the war came to my door-step”. Her stories were of diverse group of women in Aleppo, and the challenges facing them from a dictatorial government, ISI, and the conservative traditions of a male-dominated society. Forced to leave her country she sought asylum in Turkey but adds, “I can’t regret being part of the revolution, I’ll always stand with the suppressed people.”

Lyse Doucet of the BBC makes a veteran war zone journalist shares her death defying experiences, when often she had to wear men’s clothes to be even near the frontlines.

Rafida Bonya Ahmed of Bangladesh who worked along her husband on a blogging site, saw the brutal slaying of her husband at a book fair, herself injured and a defiant government punishing her for truth telling.

Gender and media have become a deadly cocktail claiming the lives of many a female working journalist and  as Cameroon’s radio journalist Moussa Marandata says that she continues to be challenged and belittled by men in her country. Moussa has dared into Boka Haram country to cover the incident.

Velvet Revolution profiles women journalists who have paid a high price for speaking truth. It may not be about economic empowerment, but the conditions in which media operate sadly gender insensitive.

IAWRT collaborative effort provides a unique opportunity to bring such scintillating work of women to the public.

Thursday 16th March – Andrea Simon

FLEXIBLE WORKING ARRANGEMENTS – sharing best practices in a changing world of work”

This Side Event hosted by the Permanent Mission of Italy to the UN was very relevant in keeping with the priority theme for CSW 61 Women’s Economic empowerment in the changing world of work. The overriding consensus is that governments must enact innovative policies to allow women to enter and remain in the labour market and achieve work life balance whilst also providing equal opportunities to advance their careers.

Ms. Monica Parrella Director General, Department for Equal Opportunities, Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Italy presented on the increasing need to have flexible working arrangements (“FWA”) due to the increasing spread of new digital technologies and the globalization of market. Flexibility in working arrangements gives employees the ability to reconcile work and family life (both men and women) and increase productivity, job satisfaction and  motivation. FWA results in “smart” working which uses new technologies to redefine the organization of work by removing the traditional constraints related to physical space, working hours and tools, and based on greater workers’ responsibility and respect of the expected outcomes. The benefits to the employer are a reduction in costs, higher efficiency, lower absenteeism, improvement of engagement. The community as a whole would experience a reduction of CO2 emissions, improvement of urban mobility, reduction of energy consumption.

In Italy FWA have increased from 8% to 30% from 2014-2016 and currently have about 250,000 employees utilizing it in companies with over 10 employees. The government has adopted organizational measures for the implementation of teleworking and for experimenting innovative ways of organizing work and time within public administrations (art. 14 of Law No. 124/2015)

The panel which also consisted of representatives from France, the World Bank, Finland and ILO also contributed to the discussion.

Ms. Stéphanie Seydoux, Directorate General for Social Cohesion, Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Women’s Rights in France reported that flexible working arrangements was however resulting in a lower percentage of women being promoted to high level positions. She noted that research shows that 1 in 3 women would like to work more and measures should be targeted at giving women more choices. Infrastructure needs to be examined as statistics revealed that 81% of domestic work is done by women. Thus, legislation must be enacted to allow parental leave to be shared between 2 parents and for employment contracts to be suspended to care for dependents.

The women’s rights advocate asserted that working with employment agencies to plug women back into the system who have been unemployed due to home care would be a great initiative. Measures should also be targeted at funding entrepreneurship programs for women and counselling for women to chose economically viable projects.

Ms. Tanja Auvinen, Secretary General at the Council for Gender Equality, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Finland shared some best practices that Finland has adopted to achieve economic empowerment and work life balance such as paid paternity leave, affordable child care services and FWA. In Finland the 70:67 men to women ratio shows almost equal participation of men and women in the workforce. She emphasised that there needs to be strong mechanisms implemented for shared responsibility since flexibility can only be achieved to a certain point.

Mr Vinicius Pinheiro, ILO Special Representative to the United Nations, implored governments to ratify Convention 156 Workers with Family Responsibilities which promotes equal opportunities and equal treatment for men and women workers. She alluded to the fact that part time employees don’t have the same opportunities to advance their career and are unlikely to be promoted. National governments have to adopt strategies and policies that promote FWA but also prevent the discrimination faced by it. Policies must also be adopted that create incentives for shared family responsibility which must be seen as an investment not a set back in career development. She reiterated the feminist consensus that we must recognize, redistribute and reduce unpaid care work.

Consequently, although significant strides have been made the discrimination faced by women who do unpaid care work or who are in flexible working arrangements could be seen as set back to their economic empowerment.

Wednesday 15th March – Kay Richmond

Today saw the resumption of normal service following the snow storm yesterday. As always there are too many sessions I would like to attend so today I concentrated on those in the UN itself and on subjects of relevant to UKPAC but of interest more widely.

Today’s sessions were:

  • The Nordic Model of Prostitution
  • Women Peace and Security (WPS) Security Council Resolution 2242 – the UN decided to integrate women, peace and security concerns across all country-specific situations on its agenda and this adds to 1325
  • Role of female parliamentarians in WPS
  • Gender equality and women’s empowerment in public life
  • Care policies in Agenda 2030 – recognise, reduce, redistribute unpaid care work

Following the disappointing conclusions of the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into prostitution, I wanted to hear what other countries have done. There was testimony from a survivor of grooming online as well as information on the success of the Nordic model of decriminalising prostitutes, criminalising the purchasers and purveyors and having support systems in place for those leaving prostitution and education for those traffickers and pimps prosecuted. The best summary of the success of this approach are available on the European Women’s Lobby’s website. Perhaps it is time for us to lobby the new chairman of the select committee – Yvette Cooper – on reopening the inquiry and, hopefully, recommending this approach.

There was much to hear in the two sessions on WPS. In summary the evidence supporting the involvement of women in conflict prevention and resolution was overwhelming. Countries with women involved at all levels in society were less likely to go to war/use force, more gender equal and more successful in business, including equal pay for equal work. The role of female parliamentarians is crucial, also the involvement of women in public life. These lessons have not yet been learned in Northern Ireland for WPS and is a reason for criticism in UN reports on the UK. Also our governments, with only Wales coming close at 42%, and public institutions still fall short of equality in their gender balance.

We are all aware of the greatest share of care work being undertaken by women. The message from the last session was recognise, reduce, redistribute unpaid care work. This involves measures such as equal parental leave, education of men and boys in the caring role and a change in societal attitudes, better measures of care work undertaken since current data collection omits those tasks done at the same time as others, e.g. childcare whilst doing the housework!

Many countries saying the right things. How much is relevant to the UK in your opinion? We have much to do, I think.

Wednesday 15th March – Jan Hemlin


Social Norms, Gender Equality and Empowerment of Young People

Now my third time at CSW it is such a nice feeling knowing the ropes! This event was hosted by the UK and Danish Governments in the UN building. Chaired by Helene Reardon Bond OBE Interim Director of the Government Equalities Office.

Karen Elleman Minister for Equal Opportunities, Denmark, explained that young people are growing up in a rapidly changing world, talked about social norms and gender stereotypes and how they affect the lives and choices of young people. The trend of increased peer pressure and online bullying and the new trend of revenge pornography – sharing naked photos without permission has doubled in ten years. Young people are robbed of the right to their own bodies, they feel shamed for sharing without consent. Digital double standards. The UK government have produced a video “Disrespect NoBody” using puppets to talk about the dangers of sexting for young people.

Hilary Spencer Director GEO talked about how society generalises social norms, the drip drip effect of what is expected of boys and girls from a nearly age. 70% 11 to 21 year olds say that sexism affects their lives which leads to low self esteem.

Tania Dethlefsen Deputy Director Family Planning Association in Denmark talked about sex education resources they have produced for schools in Denmark, 70% take part in sexuality education which includes human rights, non discrimination, challenging norms. 22% of 15 – 30 year olds have shared nude pictures. What is normal has changed! Dilemmas are so different now. As civil society, adults, parents, teachers, all need to integrate with young people to have these difficult discussions.

Finally Emma Holton, a 25 year old, co-founder of Friction magazine enthralled listeners talking about her own experiences of life in a digital world. A survivor of online bullying, now goes into schools in Denmark to share her experiences to help other young people.

A brave young woman indeed!

Tuesday 14th March – Barbara Dixon, Director of Programme

Got up at 6.30 expecting to see a winter wonderland, but could see nothing through the hotel window, the visibility was almost zero even with my glasses on!

On the street it was obvious that there had been a steady snow fall, but nothing like what was forecast, it was almost like watching glitter fall from the skies, a very fine precipitation.

As the morning has worn on it has been intermittent sleet, heavy snow and at times hail, the road conditions are treacherous, black ice, covered with snow then more ice, the snow ploughs are really struggling to clear the roads, but fortunately most have heeded the warnings and stayed home.

All CSW events were cancelled late last night due to the blizzard warning and state of emergency declared by the mayors of NY and adjoining states.

I am glad to say that the blizzard warning has now been lifted for NY due to a change in the path of the storm, but it is still very unpleasant outside.

I am spending my time reading up on what is to come at the UN in the hope that normal services will be resumed tomorrow when Soroptimist International have their main event. Nisha Ghosh should be doing the presentation, but she is staying out of town and may not get in for our 10.30 slot. I am reliably informed that I am the bad weather back up.

Let us hope that we can get on with things tomorrow, even if we have to walk carefully on the icy sidewalks… as Soroptimists though we always have to tread carefully, now we have to physically do it not just verbally!

Monday 13th March – Ann Hodgson

Opening Session - CSW61 - Ann

What a privilege to sit in the ECOSOC chamber and listen to the Opening Session of the Commission. Humbled at the thought that I was a small part of this occasion.

The Secretary General Antonio Guterres opened the proceedings and had three key points to make.

Firstly he spoke of his gratitude that we were there and working for women’s rights across the world.

Secondly, he said that women’s empowerment was a key priority. Women already have what it is to succeed so empowerment is about breaking down cultural barriers within Institutions, Governments and Companies that hinder or prevent women’s empowerment.

And lastly, he said women need support from ALL men who should stand up for women’s empowerment.

He was followed by Phumzile Mbambo Ngcuka Executive Director of UN Women whose speech was titled Constructive Impatience for Change.

CSW 61 offers a chance to review the progress made and assess the remaining challenges. We are making some progress but equally there is some erosion of gains made in other areas.

Almost all women do some form of work. If you are a woman you are a worker – period! Virtually all economies rely on the unpaid care and domestic work that is largely provided by women and girls. Positive changes in the world of work must enable care work to be valued and shared by others within the family unit.

The global pay gap at an average of 23% means women are clearly earning consistently less than men.

The technology age that we now live in means that we need to seek technology enabled solutions for women, and must act on gaps in the access to technology that unfortunately has been growing. There are 200 million fewer women online than men and the gap is widening! 90% of future jobs will require a level of digital literacy.

Advancing women’s equality in total could bring a potential boost of 28 trillion dollars to global GDP by 2025 which is 5 years behind the 2030 Agenda end point. How that would change the world!

She also spoke of the need to change discriminatory laws in 150 countries which could affect more than 3 billion women and girls in the world.

She concluded that there are only 13 years to reach 2030. Every week and every month counts. We must not become the Commission on the Status Quo.

It was then time to have a quick bite for lunch before rushing off to another event on Modern Day Slavery.

Monday 13th March – Michelle Cave

Michelle attended several side events and has produced some notes of these below:

Read Michelle’s notes

Monday 13th March – Lita Srinivasan

CSW61 Good jobs for young people

“Women’s Economic Empowerment in the changing world of work”, is the priority theme at the CSW61 and seeing the young adults making attempts to bring about the much needed change was heartening.

Barnardo’s, the British Charity had sponsored the parallel event, “Good jobs for young people”. The support by this charity through its assertive outreach, giving these young adults positive and much needed attention is bound to pay off well in the long run.

The manner in which they advocated economic empowerment as against exploitation will enhance the quality of life for women. The fact that they are young and can access people who are their own age and convey their message was apparent from the loud cheers from youngsters in the room.

They spoke on the fact that women who face violence are less likely to access or experience economic empowerment. And even those who gain economic empowerment may sometimes face a backlash from their partners or community and on how best one can resolve them.

From the discussions, it clearly emerged that focus on working with children and young adults is bound to pay off and help achieve gender equality by 2030.

Sunday 12th March – Sylvia Walker

In terms of its substance and its energy, the Consultation Day Program of CSW61 was impactful and entertaining. Beginning with its various “Welcome Messages and Conversation,” the first part of the Program was a tour de force of strong opinions, appealing arguments, experiential narratives, and riveting poetry, all making me inwardly celebrate my first-time presence at CSW 61.

Here indeed was ‘’church’’ as the event took place on Sunday 12th March 2017 at the Stella and Danny Kaye Auditorium of Hunter College, New York City, the congregation of diverse women being reminded that context is everything and that there must be an enabling environment for women’s economic empowerment.

I personally savoured the rhythm of the morning session as it moved seamlessly from the spoken word of prose in the speeches and conversations to the impassioned oration of Dr. Mabel Bianco, Woman of Distination 2017 Awardee and Keynote Speaker for the Consultation Day Program. Her intensity was followed by the articulate mellow poetry of Rupi Kaur whose “is finally, “”used with what they consider beautiful / is their concept of beauty / centers around excluding people … ” exclusion underpinning the theme of the panel discussion on “Women’s Rights and Gender Equity in the Changing World of Work” which brought the morning to a fulsome end with its differing ideologies and theories.

After the lunch break, I participated in a Break Out group which discussed the theme “Tackling Gender Violence at Home and in the Workplace” as presented by Dishad Dayani of the World Women Global Council and Raphael Crowe, Senior Gender Specialist, ILO, Geneva. While the former identified a two-pronged approach involving the media and the entertainment industry for helping victims of domestic violence, the latter cited the important research conducted by the University of New South Wales on the impact of domestic violence in the workplace and it having led not only to a meeting with the Trade Union Movement but also to employees being able to get leave to take care of issues related to domestic violence.

Opportunity and freedom were the concluding motifs of the Consultation Day Program when the sonorous voice of Lee Olive Tucker, Harlem Diva, lamented the Nina Simone version of “I wish I knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” but then immediately ignited an interactive singalong with “This Little Light of Mine,” Etta Baker’s ‘’We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest ,” and finally, “Keep on Movin’.’” Needless to say, when we were all sung out, we were a few hundred women energized and renewed to pursue the cause of women’s empowerment at CSW61, the theme for the Consultation Program having been “Women’s Rights and Gender Equity in the Changing World of Work.” The priming was complete.

Sunday 12th March – Barbara Dixon, Director of Programme

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Bozena, Margaret Clark and I left the hotel for the Consultation Day, looking forward to being enthused and motivated by the speakers and entertainment.

In a warm welcome from Bette Levy, one of our UN reps in New York, we were told that this year the delegates for CSW outnumbered those attending Beijing and was a mark of the strength of feelings about the issues facing us.

We were entertained by the UN Choir and then greeted by Susan O’Malley, Chair of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women in NY. This was followed by a question/answer session involving Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and H.E. Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, moderated by Bandana Rana.

Both speakers agreed that there was much to do in implementing the Sustainable Development Goal’s (SDG’s) in a time of adversity and dwindling funds, but we need to optimise what we have and encourage and support the youth.

We also need more leaders with zero tolerance to anti-feminism,

Civil society is extremely important in pushing for empowerment, raising awareness of discrimination, fighting xenophobia with rationalism and humanism.

We all need to work for equality and laws that work for everyone. Equality should exist at all levels.

Vigilance is essential, reform of laws is necessary and all must be accountable.

Dr Mabel Bianco then addressed the delegates. A Human rights worker for 30 years she was honoured to be chosen as the Woman of Distinction. She stressed the need for everyone to participate in making equality a reality and ensuring governments implemented what they had agreed at the UN. Sexuality education is one key to relationships – this is not talking about the act of sex but the relationships between the sexes, respect and understanding are crucial.

Rupi Kaur, a young Asian/American poet then recited some of her very powerful work about women and their abuse.

The final session of the morning was a panel discussion involving Radhika Balakrishnan, Julianna Richter, Elizabeth Tang, Esther Mwaura and Laksmi Puri. Topics covered were migrant and domestic workers, indigenous people, and reasons for migration, corporate responsibilities and women’s role in farming.

The most memorable statement came from Radhika who asked “What is the economy for if not for Human rights and welfare” we have to reverse the trend for capitalism and look at resources for humanity.

After a short break for lunch delegates then split for the afternoon workshops which covered, MDS, early marriage, trafficking, a feminist Internet, equality at work, climate change and conflict and tackling gender based violence in the workplace.

A transcript of feedback is anticipated.

The session ended with the Harlem Diva LeeOlive Tucker singing 4 songs, the last one being, what appears to be our signature tune now, “Keep on Movin.”

An inspirational day reinforcing just why we are all here.

Saturday 11th March – Barbara Dixon, Director of Programme


And so it begins…. 3.30 am Saturday 11th March in the car on the way to the airport to travel to Newark and on to New York for the start of CSW.

Arriving to sub-zero temperatures a quick wash and unpack and then down to meet up with more Soroptimists to register for our UN passes.

Back at UN1 we all sat down to sort out the agenda for the next two days – you cannot believe how difficult it is to select what events to go to. There is so much relevant to our Soroptimist wok. President Ann had registered to attend the Youth Forum whilst others were off to the Consultation Day (read more about this after the event).

Assistant Programme Director (APD) for Advocacy, Margaret Clark, tried valiantly to collate who was doing what, where, when and who was going to report on it.

By 6.00 pm most were feeling the effects of a long day and everyone went their own way, secure in the knowledge that they should know where they were going the following day and also mindful of the start of Spring in NY with the clocks going forward an hour – so many time changes in 24 hours.

Tomorrow the real work starts.

Friday 10th March – Margaret Clark, APD Advocacy

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Arrived in sunny New York for CSW61 after an interesting journey being seated on the flight next to a Government Diplomat who works for Antonia Romeo. Antonia is currently British Consul-General in New York at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Director General for Economic and Commercial Affairs in the USA for UK Trade and Investment. You can imagine that our conversation turned to Brexit and opportunities to drive the export trade and investment for the UK.

On International Women’s Day there were many ladies wearing red, unable to strike they showed solidarity in this way. I joined them! The photograph shows the ladies working in Manhattan uniformly wearing red scarves.

On a boat trip around the islands of the Hudson and East rivers we obtained a picture of New York’s first lady – Statue of Liberty, standing for freedom for all.

Nearby was Ellis Island where many of the refugees who helped to build New York and the USA arrived.

Another interesting lady I met was Phetsamone SONE from the LAO Statistics Bureau who was attending meetings at United Nations.You can imagine what this conversation was about!!! Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The CSW61 delegates are starting to arrive and I am hoping that the snow wont delay them. What a contrast from the Spring day yesterday.

Looking forward to next week.

The sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 13 to 24 March 2017.

Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world are invited to attend the session.

Over 80 members of Soroptimist International from all four Federations will be joining in debates, contributing to discussions and attending side and parallel events at the various venues held either within the United Nations building itself or in satellite locations.

Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) will be contributing to some of these events and may have the chance to speak at some of the high level discussions.

CSW is a great opportunity to network, promote the aims of Soroptimism and mix with like-minded people in an attempt to influence Governments from all over the world on the rights of women and girls.

Daily blogs will be sent by the SIGBI delegates, which will be posted on a News Item on the SIGBI Website, so please do visit every day to keep up with events.

Friendship Links

To all Soroptimists who are going to CSW61 – have you got plans to meet up with your Friendship Links from other Federations?  If so, then please do take photographs and send them, with a short explanation of who is meeting whom, and send them to the Friendship Link Coordinator, Zarreen Babu – – for the next Friendship Link Newsletter.


Priority theme: Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work

Review theme: Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls (agreed conclusions of the fifty-eighth session)

Emerging issue/Focus area: The empowerment of indigenous women

More information is available at: