Raechel Mathews is from YWCA Australia (YWCA NSW). She represents the young women of her community and the movement at CSW 2013
At 10am, Monday, 4 March, 2013, the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations, New York, was officially opened! This year’s theme is ‘Elimination and
Prevention of Violence for Women and Girls’, involving negotiations between 45 member states of the United Nations, to come to a set of agreed conclusions about policy changes to be adopted in their home country in support of the advancement of women’s rights.
Commencing with a passionate address from the Chair of the Commission, HE Ms. Marjon Kamara from Liberia, stated that ‘the words we speak here in condemnation of violence will be transformed into new and systematic actions on the ground that create real and meaningful change in the lives of women and girls’. Ms Kamara also emphasized that the Commission participants must have a commitment to ‘enhance accountability from stakeholders about promises made’. As well as highlighting successes achieved, obstacles faced and outstanding challenges that the delegates are expected to share during their country presentations, Ms Kamara acknowledged the panel and side events which are to be held outside of the negotiations during the next two weeks; encouraging her colleagues to participate in interesting exchanges, and embrace ‘the vibrancy of side events and inspiration you get from the stories’ to ensure CSW will be a valuable experience.
The Chair, on behalf of the Bureau,(other members include Ms. Ana Marie Hernando (Philippines) of the Asia-Pacific States Group, Vice-Chair; Ms. Irina Velichko (Belarus) of the Eastern European States Group, Vice-Chair; H.E. Mr. Carlos Garcia Gonzalez (El Salvador) of the Latin American and Caribbean States Group, Vice-Chair; Mr. Filippo Cinti (Italy), Western European and other States Group, Vice-Chair) stressed that due to the disappointing collapse of last year’s agreed conclusions, globally, ‘all eyes are on us’ and full participation is required for a productive session.
The proceedings continued with an address by the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Jan Elisson, who in his rousing speech, also highlighted the significance and importance of CSW, and reinforced the collective feeling in the room from delegates who share his passion about breaking the cycle of violence.
He acknowledged that ‘Women’s empowerment is picking up speed… but we need to do more’ and that ‘Ending violence against women is a matter of life and death’; describing it as ‘global scourge’.
He stated that knowing about violence against women is not enough, and that as a global body, it is imperative for member states to change minds and laws; mobilising forces to ‘create a culture where shame around these crimes is solely directed to the perpetrators’. The Deputy Secretary General stressed the importance of encouraging men to break gender stereotypes and to take an equal share of responsibility in their homes and families; and that ‘you do not have to be a politician and policymaker’ to eliminate violence against women.
Ms. Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, opened her speech to the Commission with athe clear statement that ‘the world is watching’ and in the wake of violence in India and Pakistan, the priority theme of CSW is timely. Ms Bachelet recounted several stories of violent attacks from around the world, including a young woman from the US who took her own life after being raped by men she thought were her friends; to a woman from Northern Mali who was raped for 2 nights by 7 men whilst her arms were chained to avoid her fighting back. She also talked about slavery, trafficking, economic abuse, female genital mutilation, and early and forced child marriage. Ms Bachelet credited the bravery of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousazfai, who was shot in the head for advocating girls’ right to education; received applause for reinforcing the importance of gender mainstreaming to be featured in the Millennium Development Goals; and identified the need for more women on the justice frontline (police, lawyers, judges) to encourage more women to report crime and receive assistance. Ms Bachelet conveyed that implementation of laws, policy and programmes must be accelerated, stating ‘Prevention of Violence AgainsftWomen requires acceptance from all members of society, including men and boys. Words need to be matched by action’.
Other speakers included the Chair of the Committee of the Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Ms Nicole Ameline, as well as the Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women, Ms Rashida Manjoo, who spoke about disability and institutional abuse.
This was an encouraging way to begin CSW 57, and to hear all speakers expressing their personal and their respective organisation’s desire for sustainable change. Let’s hope over the next two weeks this momentum and passion continues as the negotiations over policy language begin!
Hearing about UN Women’s commitment to eliminate early and forced child marriage is a positive step forward towards the World YWCA’s own campaign, which you can support here: