Reflections on the Commission on the Status of Women

By YWCA of Canberra Executive Director, Rebecca Vassarotti

Advocacy Team Convenes for Resolutions

CSW is a forum for learning for YWCA delegates, with eight Y women coming together to work on text for resolutions that are being developed as part of the session.

We worked on the resolution around women and the impacts of HIV and AIDs. This was something that none of the participants had done before and we used this as an opportunity to understand the process of how to develop language for UN documents.  We worked through the document, noting areas where key issues for the YWCA had been missed and making suggestions on language – noting places where we needed to look at agreements that the UN had already made on this issue to ensure that Governments could agree to our suggestions. We have cross cultural perspectives, with Sweden, Zambia, Japan, Sri Lanka and Australia represented in the discussion. YWCA women with experience and an interest in climate change, sexual and reproductive health and post conflict situation. This was a fantastic opportunity to ensure that the views of young women were represented in the advocacy work of the YWCA.

These young women now have skills around the development of advocacy positions in the United Nations, they have had their views heard here. They have given voice to women, young women and girls impacted by HIV and AIDs and ensured that nation members listen to these.  Pretty Exciting hey!!

Brooklyn Family Justice Centre

Thanks to the wonderful Martha, CEO of YWCA of Brooklyn we arranged a tour of the Brooklyn District Attorney General’s Family Justice Centre which was attended by Australian delegates including Elizabeth Brodrick, the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner.  We were able to tour this fantastic site, which integrates support services and criminal justice services for victims of domestic violence.  This program has come about because of a personal commitment by the District Attorney. He has devoted part of his budget to these services, often to significant criticism due to a belief that supporting victims should be placed first, and then legal ramifications of this crime addressed.  The physical space was beautiful. A significant security process (akin to going to an airport) and a non descript office space hid a beautiful welcoming space. Childcare facilities, internet access, resources and support offices are provided. The space where clients work with the prosecutors is in direct line sight to where children are being provided care. Police officers are on hand for clients who need to file incident reports but these police officers are plain clothed. Over 20 community organisations are provided space for free so that they can provide additional support. This was an amazing example of what can happen when someone has a vision, when clients are placed in the centre of services and when a dedicated group of people come together to make things better for those who have suffered violence. It was inspiring and proved that we can do things better.

YWCA Australia Presents as part of the Commission for the Status of Women

We were very excited to present our very first parallel event at this year’s Commission for the Status of Women on the fifth day of CSW.  The workshop explored how grass roots organisations can contribute to national reconciliation processes, particularly drawing on the YWCA experience of using reconciliation action plans. Michelle Deshong, an extremely skilled facilitator and Indigenous woman from Queensland facilitated the workshop. We provided information about some of the historical context from which reconciliation has grown. We then shared the story of developing a reconciliation action plan at the YWCA of Canberra, reflecting on the challenges and why we believe this has been a very useful process. Then other delegates from Burma and Sri Lanka shared their experiences coming from post conflict regions about how reconciliation processes could be useful. Key message from these reflections included the need to involve women and ensuring that there was peace with justice.  It was a session where we all learn a lot and shared our different perspectives. We were extremely proud and honoured to have the opportunity to tell our stories in this international context, and particularly proud that we were able to create a space where the voices of Indigenous women were heard.  We are particularly grateful to Michelle who brought an extra dimension to the workshop.  A great way to finish a busy week at CSW!!

On my way home

I am sitting in Los Angeles Airport at a late hour, reflecting on the incredible week we have just had at CSW. We have had incredible achievements and we are very proud of what we have done. Key highlights from my engagement at CSW have included watching the young women delegates develop and shine at this event. They came as shy young women coming from countries with tremendous challenges, and at the end of the first week all of them have presented at workshops confidently and competently. We have also established our reputation as a key advocate at this event.

From a YWCA of Canberra and YWCA Australia perspective we have much to be proud of.  We have made new friends, strengthened old ones and developed ongoing and sustainable relationships with individuals and organisations from Australia and beyond. We have lifted our profile at CSW – presenting parallel events and supporting other YWCA events. We have supported the development of young women across the YWCA movement, contributing to the training program significantly.  We have led the advocacy team, working closely with World YWCA to develop advocacy statements and skilling up the delegation to contribute to the development of the statement and then advocate for the adoption of key themes.

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