YWCA Prepares for CSW

By YWCA of Canberra Executive Director, Rebecca Vassarotti 

CSW has not yet started but YWCA is already working to progress issues that we believe are key to improving the lives of rural women.

From the left- Rebecca Vassarotti, Alison Laird, Jessica Hamilton

Over the last few days, YWCA women from around the world have been converging in New York to ensure the voices of local women are heard at the 56th session of the Commission for the Status of Women.  Women from countries including  Trinidad Tobago, Sweden, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Eqypt, Australia, the United States of America, Liberia, Kenya, Finalnd and Columbia are participating in the YWCA delegation to this year’s CSW. On Friday we prepared through an introduction and orientation to UN Human Rights system and CSW, shared our experiences of the issues facing women in our countries and considered the key issues that we believe should be addressed by governments meeting at CSW. Key issues that emerged included the importance of the use of language that is appropriate and accessible for rural women, ensuring that leadership models are able to be accessed by rural and particularly young women, that violence against women as a key priority, access to health services, particularly sexual and reproductive health rights and services.

On Saturday 25th, a number of delegates attended the Ecumenical Women’s session and joined women’s faith based organisations in planning advocacy for the event. Michelle Deshong, member of the YWCA Australia delegation provided a powerful and thought provoking reflection of the experience of Aboriginal women living in Australia.

We also joined together to reflect on what the task ahead was, how best to support each other and the group and what specific roles would be required over the two weeks of the Commission session.

While CSW is yet to begin, the World YWCA delegation is coming together as an immensely talented team who is no doubt going to make an incredible impact at the meeting. Collectively we have committed to honouring the privileged that has been afforded to us in representing the 25 million women and girls who are part of the YWCA. We hope to give voice to the women who are part of the 22000 communities in which we work and aim to be an authentic voice to rural women, and provide a link for rural and local women to international policy and decision making. This is a huge responsibility. However, getting to know the amazing women who are part of this delegation, I am energized and inspired that we will make a difference to the lives of women through participating in this event

América Latina, comencemos a caminar – Latin America, start walking

Vicky Rojas Araya

By: Vicky Rojas Araya

This is a reflection piece from a young member of the YWCA of Valparaíso, Chile and is part of the World YWCA delegation at the Conference in Vienna.

Esta es una reflexión proveniente de una joven miembro de la YWCA de Valparaíso, Chile, que participe en la Conferencia Internacional de SIDA 2010.

La Conferencia Internacional de SIDA del 2010 sin duda dejará una indeleble marca en mi, no sólo por todo lo que he aprendido sobre diferentes aspectos involucrados en la prevención, tratamiento, cuidado y apoyo relacionado al tema del VIH/SIDA, sino también por encontrarme con “el mundo”, con la diversidad, con las culturas, con los lenguajes. Pareciera que una muestra aleatoria del planeta se encontrara todos los días entre  esas paredes, y sobre todo en la colorida Aldea Global (diversa y respetuosa de esa cualidad).

Sin embargo, entre tantas luces y colores, me preguntaba que pasaba con mi región, con Latinoamérica, y es que cuando te encuentras con el mundo, los procesos identitarios no sólo se encuentran con tu país, sino con aquellos que representan una cultura similar, con quienes compartimos una historia y hablamos la misma lengua.  Y era a esta región a la que buscaba, quería saber qué pasaba con la gente que la conformamos, pero aparecían solo goteras,  y ninguna articulada entre sí.

Ante este escenario llegue a la Sesión Regional de América Latina, fue un tremendo agrado entrar y escuchar mi idioma, me sentí como en casa, y a medida que las exposiciones se desarrollaban confirmaba que somos una sola región, a la vez que compartimos culturas e idiomas, compartimos también problemas.

Claramente, como dijo  uno de los relatores “somos demasiado pobres para sentarnos en las mesas que tienen poder de decisión mundial, pero demasiado ricos para recibir ayuda internacional”, lo que crea una sensación de injusticia, que se suma la sentencia mencionada por otra relatora,  respecto a que “somos la región más inequitativa del planeta”; y quienes estábamos presentes no lo sabemos por datos estadísticos, lo sabemos porque lo vemos cada día, y lo sentimos en nuestros pueblos. Todo esto sumado a la violencia de género, a la corrupción en manejos presupuestarios a niveles gubernamentales, a las políticas conservadoras en materia de salud sexual, y al estigma y discriminación que enfrentan los HSH, LGBT y trabajadores/as sexuales, hace que los derechos humanos de toda la población se vean afectados (no sólo de las PVVIH sino también de todos quienes vivimos en estas tierras).

Ante tal panorama, ¿qué es lo que se puede hacer?.  Los relatores expusieron diversos caminos, todos para mi gusto, necesarios y urgentes, como actuar a nivel legislativo y asegurar derechos sexuales y reproductivos en la población, protección legal a temáticas relacionadas al VIH/SIDA y Salud Sexual, asegurar una sanidad presupuestaria, trabajar respecto al estigma y discriminación, y abogar por la no criminalización de la transmisión del VIH/SIDA. Sin embargo, como miembro de una organización de la sociedad civil, llamo mi atención el llamado a la unión, a la formación de redes entre todos quienes trabajamos en pro de estos objetivos, ya que en la medida en que somos capaces de reunirnos, seremos capaces de visibilizar la urgencia de estos temas ante la región y el mundo.

Sin duda una meta que no quiere esperar….parece que nuestros pies quieren comenzar a caminar…

Comenzamos a caminar

“What a diverse group: Women!”

Hoda El Mankabady

By Hoda El Mankabady, from the YWCA of Egypt.  Hoda is one the young women of the YWCA delegation at the Conference in Vienna.

The 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna, with the theme – “Women’s Rights Here – Women’s Rights Now,” held a session on Monday morning: “Our Bodies… Our Rights: Young Women’s Forum on SRHR”,

The objective of the session was to (i) create a safe space to speak openly about SRHR (ii) make the link between SRHR & HIV clear and (iii) create the opportunity to develop clear messages on the subject matter.

The session was quite interactive and engaged the whole audience. It started off with an inter-generational introduction and discussion around why SRHR is important to each one of the participants. It was moderated by our own Sophie Dilmitis, together with another colleague from the World AIDS Campaign.

Many SRHR issues came out of the dialogue, showing the diversity of both the participants as well as the issue. The creation of a safe space to talk about SRHR was one of the issues, young women’s reproductive care another, women with disabilities living with HIV and their access to services, women in prison living with HIV, etc…

After a rich discussion with the active audience, groups were divided by theme and were asked to develop 5 key messages to get across whenever possible and integrate them as an outcome document. The themes were (i) Safe Space (ii) Migrants (iii) Disabilities (iv) Choice (v) Lesbian women and (vi) Sexual Education. The groups were then asked to present their messages. Some of the strong messages were:

  • Honour my choices and give me options to make healthy decisions
  • Domestic violence does exist in lesbian households
  • Call for acceptable, accessible, adaptable, non biased and comprehensive sexual education
  • Disable women are sexual beings too
  • Safe spaces need to be created and initiated by young women for young women
  • SRHR policies need to be translated from paper to people
  • Migrant workers face double stigma

The session was an eye opener. We always talk about women and girls and their SRHR. But this was the first time I realised how diverse the women’s group is. And not just that, but every sub-group of the women’s group has different needs and wants, different messages and different calls for action. It is interesting to try and develop an approach to address all the needs of these groups.

I am looking forward to attending more of these interactive sessions as they not only create a safe space for discussing “taboo” issues, but also allow for inter-generational dialogue, as well as encourage young women to share their ideas and thoughts about issues they may have not had the chance to talk about before.

World YWCA delegates find their way at CSW 2010

By World YWCA CSW Intern and Superstar: Chelsey Butchereit

World YWCA delegates met together in a conference room at the UNICEF building for the first time as an entire group on February 26, 2010. During this orientation we were able to learn more about each other, grow as a team, and gain knowledge that will help each of us have a meaningful CSW experience.

Susan Brennan, World YWCA President, gave an overview of the objectives of the World YWCA’s participation in CSW that included:

  • Building a movement and leadership
  • Participating in global advocacy and conversations
  • Planning for World Council 2011
  • Developing fund raising and friend raising

As a group we also discussed our individual expectations as well.

Susan also gave a brief but comprehensive overview of the United Nations structure, how the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) fits into that structure, details about the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), and what to expect from this year’s CSW.

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary, took on the task of helping the group understand our talking points and ways to best approach difficult or sensitive subjects that may come up in our conversations with others.

To finish up the orientation Bonnie Fatio-Pollock, World YWCA volunteer, lead the group in a discussion about best practices for getting our message across effectively and in only a couple of minutes! In small groups members of the delegation had the opportunity to come up with and present one minute “elevator speeches” for each of the six  recommendations the World YWCA has for the UN CSW (invest in women and girls, ensure safety and security of women and girls, involve women most affected, expand access to comprehensive services, promote women’s leadership, and keep promises made).

Overall it was an exciting and informative start to CSW 54!

Related Links

World YWCA at CSW 2010

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