The 57th Session of the Commission for the Status of Women at the United Nations
The 57th Session of the Commission for the Status of Women at the United Nations


  The Commission for the Status of Women's 57th Session (CSW 57) took place from March 4th-15th, here in NYC, at the United Nations. The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office took an active role in the CSW events. Below you will find summaries of all of the CSW panels and events attended by our office representatives. What exactly is CSW? Every Spring the CSW meets for two weeks to develop recommendations for international communities on a specific topic. This year, the focus of the meetings was on the Elimination and Prevention of all Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls. CSW events are attended by UN agencies, NGOs, government representatives and others. For additional information on CSW, click here. To read panelist papers from some of the CSW meetings, click here. Engendering Bottom-Up Justice Reform- A Grassroots Women’s Approach for Securing Access to Justice, hosted by UNDP and Huairou Commission. Date: March 4, 2013 Research conducted across 7 African countries supports that efforts to secure access to justice for women in the global south must move away from the trickle-down approach and instead move to empower and promote women-led grassroots efforts. Community women must be acknowledged as leaders in these efforts and be fully engaged in all stages and steps of change processes. These efforts are most powerful when they collaboratively engage women alliances and men allies, and are supported through enabling environments. Women in community-based programs know there is more power in numbers, and they are coming together to create forums to make their voices heard and increase their presence in decision-making processes, both locally and nationally. “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” They are challenging governments and governmental systems, asking critical questions and exposing injustices. Major challenges still exist in overcoming language barriers in legal systems and in harmonizing traditional and national laws.   Strategies of resistance: Combating Violence against Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Women, hosted by ILGA, Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, Swedish Government Offices Date: March 4 The event covered the work of L(G)BT organizations from different parts and continents of the world, sharing knowledge about how to raise awareness and increase visibility of LBT women, and violence against LBT women but also violence in same-sex LBT relationships. The prevalence of violence against LBT women is probably higher than officially reported due to criminalization and cultural oppression of LBT relationship in certain countries. The panel and attendants called for increase the reporting of data to increase awareness about this situation that is often overlooked when discussing violence against women. Violence against Women in Gender-Equal Societies, hosted by The Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud’s Office in Norway and FOKUS-forum for Women and Development, Norway Date: March 4, 2013 Gender equality is a highly valued principle in many gender equality friendly societies, such as Norway, where the public discourse and the development of public policy is anchored within an equal opportunities framework. While the equal opportunities agenda has paved the way for significant advances for women and girls in the public sphere, it has not been equally effective in addressing gender based-violence. Sexual harassment and violence against women and girls is a matter of particular concern. Hence most of the discussions were on the strategies and measures that can effectively address the root causes that underlie the persistence of gender based violence. Though Norway is considered as gender equal society, it is only in cabinet that the numbers of ministers are equal in both genders. The country still has 40:60 ratio in all other aspects in society. LGBT people do have problem and risk for violence, and above all women are still not reporting violence.  Though the panels on women are all over this week, one cannot deny the patriarchy that still exist in gender equal societies because we do not have equalization of gender role. Dr. Michael Kaufman, rightly concluded saying that we take away men from the violence against women, the actual title should be “Violence by men against women.”   Women’s Economic Empowerment as a Tool for Combating and Eliminating Violence Against Women, hosted by the Permanent Mission of Israel, the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the Coalition against Trafficking in Women. Date: March 4, Measures must be engaged to promote the economic empowerment of women as part of the international agenda; assisting women in being active participants in realizing enhanced livelihoods and improved quality of life. Research has shown that when mothers have money, the family benefits as a whole; the children have more opportunities to education, health care, and adequate nutrition. Violence against women is a cross-cutting issue and is deeply embedded in issues of poverty and access to resources. One way in which violence in impoverished women is sustained is through dependency; by opening up opportunities for women to generate their own incomes we can break barriers to overcoming violence created by a dependency on perpetuators. Further sustainers and challenges include poor education, a lack of sufficient professional training, and access to markets. Improving awareness through research, capacity building, creating gender sensitive policy, and open exchange of best practice are just a few of the measures suggested by the hosting agencies. We must move away from dependency and foster INDEPENDENCE!

Documenting Violence Against Lesbians, Bisexual Women and Transgender (LBT) People in Asia, hosted by IGLHRC Date: March 5th  International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission’s Asia Pacific Program Coordinator, and research project partners from Asia will highlight challenges, strategies, and unexpected takeaways from a three-year project documenting violence against lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in Asia. This year’s theme, ‘Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls’ of the Commission on the Status of Women, has a particular resonation for lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LBT) communities. LBT people are often subjected to violence on many levels, at home, in society, and from police or other state actors. Panelists in this event are participating in a three-year project documenting the violence that lesbians, bisexual women and transgender (LBT) people have experienced in five Asian countries. Grace Poore is coordinating this regional action research project, which has involved training in-country partners to conduct human rights documentation and data analysis, and editorial assistance with reporting. Partners are currently developing reports to will be released in 2013. Mental Health Implications of Violence Against Women and Girls, hosted by The World Federation for Mental Health Date: March 5, 2013 An excerpt from UU-UNO Intern, Jacklyn Booth's speech, "Although I strongly advocate for education and economic empowerment as avenues for fighting oppression and violence against women, I do not believe that either can be fully successful independent of the other. Furthermore, neither can be fully successful without taking into account the need for mental health services. This is especially pertinent in countries which suffer from political and social instability and conflict, as well as in countries that report high incidents of gender-based violence, all which greatly impact the mental health of women.

Take for instance, the thousands of women around the world who have lost their husbands or other male relatives during wars. In a country where the future of a woman depends on her husband, widows are often powerless. This results in a loss of identity and one’s place in the society. Depending on men emotionally and financially, and finding it difficult to cope with the loss, often results in these women falling into a state of depression. The most immediate service needed may be directed towards lifting these women out of poverty, but what about her psychological state? Mental health services provide a space to build a foundation of coping skills and support for women that will last beyond when crisis interventions or emergency relief services are gone.

Although, mental health may not be the direct target of a project, mental health cannot be ignored. This includes considering the implications on individuals and communities when mental health services are integrated into policy and practice. For instance, at the program level, how is a woman’s role in her home and community impacted if she begins working in a sewing collective outside the home? While this may decrease the social isolation for this woman, it may also result in violence from her husband who feels his role in the household is being threatened. Similarly, what are the effects when a girl attends school in a community where the girl child is needed in the home to help with household duties? How does this girl adjust and cope to these dual demands? In some countries girls must sneak out to go to school, with deadly consequences if they get caught learning. This is not a call to remove these activities, but a reminder that we must consider the additional risks women and girls are exposed to through development programs, as well as consider  what physical and psychological protective factors are in place.  The oppression and psycho-social barriers experienced by women are socially created and by changing the balance of power in the home or community, women may experience positive and negative effects."

Innovative Approaches to Challenge Cultural Practices the Promote and Fuel Violence Against Women, hosted by Open Society Foundations, International Women's Program   Date: March 6, 2013 Culturally acceptable roles or behaviors that exist for women and work to oppress and perpetuate violence must be challenged and examined. These restrictions are often stigmatizing and result in punishment for those women who fail to conform to such roles or behaviors, holding the women responsible and guilty for provoking violent acts and reactions by men. This only works to promote wide spread tolerance and privatization of violence against women, instead of viewing these acts as pervasive and grave violations of human rights. Strategies aimed to address gender violence must start at the cultural level, working on behaviors and relations between men and women in their daily lives. Successful efforts are documented with programs which target girls and boys generally in the school system, the families, and the media.


Zero Tolerance of Violence against Girls, hosted by International Presentation Association, Working Group on Girls, Congregation of our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. Date: March 6, 2013 The panel and discussions were interesting with Swarnalakshmi, a visually impaired girl, a young boy Muthu Selva from India, who is the executive members of Child Parliament in the state of Tamil Nadu. The neighborhood groups or communities seek to promote direct democracy and governance by people through multi-tier networks of neighborhood parliaments. The main discussions were on bringing the girl child freedom and providing her protection by peer groups and adults. They narrated success stories of stopping child marriages and rescuing the child brides with the help of child parliamentarians. The idea of these groups to prevent atrocities over women and girls are modeled by neighborhood-based basic communities of Latin America. Here the families in the neighborhood came together, learned together, discussed together, decided together and acted together. Hindered of thousands such communities came up all over the continent. The basic characteristics of these communities are they were small in size because in a smaller forum even the small voices of the small people could get listened to and be taken seriously. The session was diverted from violence against women to children involvement in preventing violence against children in rural India.   Eliminating all Forms of Violence against Girls and Women of all Ages, hosted by Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, Institute for Women and Girls. Date: March 9, 2013 The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995 had reaffirmed dignity and equal rights to women and pledged to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence. However, we find that violence against women and girls has increased considerably. The condition of women’s safety and rights everywhere particularly in India continues to be critical as women try to become more independent. The dichotomy of the status of women still continues to exist, as we see woman swaying on the heights of success and lowering to the depths of misery. On the one hand women are gaining excellence in education, jobs, politics, technology, etc., breaking free from various chains that had been tied to them. At the same time she remains vulnerable to male domination and a patriarchal structure with strong social-cultural practices that bind a woman from her full attempts to freedom. Empowerment is freedom of choice or right to make decision. A woman is challenged in her choice to make a choice. In a society whth the norm of son preference the birth of a male child is considered good fortune and is celebrated. India is party to the UN CEDAW (UN Convention on the Elimination on the Discrimination on Women), India also has national provisions in the form of Constitution Guarantees and some laws in the Indian Penal code that protect women specially victims of rape and sexual assault, there are also gender specific laws to address rights to abortions, dowry deaths, domestic violence etc. But the role of Social worker goes beyond laws and codes. Today rural women need agents to bring out their potentialities and help them stand for themselves.


Educating Women and Girls for Communities Free of Gender Based Violence, hosted by the UU-UNO. Date: March 11, 2013 The speakers on our panel included: Tiloma Jayasinghe, the Executive Director of Sakhi for South Asian Women, a non-profit organization working to end gender-based violence. She was formerly a Social Affairs Office at he United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, where she was responsible for analyzing and identifying policies and practices eliminating violence against women from an international perspective. Pauline Park, Chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA) and president of the Board of Directos as well as Acting Executive Director of Queens Pride House, which she co-founded in 1997. Dr. Jean D'Cunha, Global Policy Adviser for Employment and Migration UN Women, based at UN Women HQ. She was the Regional Programme Director for the former United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) East and Southeast Asia Regional Office and the Regional Advisor/Programme Manager for the former UNIFEM Asia-Pacific and Arab States Regional Programme on Empowering Women Migrant Workers in Asia.

In order to combat and eliminate violence against women and children, further efforts must be directed towards prevention. The panelists  illustrated international models for using education as a tool to combat violence against women as well as considering other tools.  The panel discussed some of the successes and failures these models present as well as recommendations for the international community for moving forward. Some of the questions considered included: Is education a useful tool? How can we utilize and integrate education in a culturally sensitive way? What additional factors must be considered when developing policies and programs that utilize education as a means for addressing the issues surrounding gender based violence?  Panelists also discussed other methods to protect women and children from abuse that go beyond education. The panelists illustrated the importance of educating communites against the disrimination of women to reduce violence and the significance of engaging all stakeholders in the conversation of violence. The causes and felt individual and community impacts of violence against women are complex and will only be effectively addressed through collective action.  This panel  provided an opportunity for information exchange among international experts on successful gender rights campaigns, programs, and policies using education to prevent and eliminate violence against women.  

    Girl Rising, hosted by UN Foundation Date: March 11, 2013 There are variety of factors that keep girls and women worldwide trapped in a cycle of illiteracy and poverty – from lack of quality health services to restrictive home environments – and there is only one proven solution: equal access to education. Yet for many girls in marginalized communities worldwide, the problems keeping them from attending school go far beyond just literacy rates and school fees. The movie Girl Rising is the story of nine such girls who have crossed the stereotype of rural women and have changed their future by adamantly pursuing their education. The Director Richard Robbins says “when girls go to school and get an education, they stay healthy. They save money. They speak up. They build businesses. Then they pass it all on…poverty declines. Challenges become opportunities; progress happens.” Around the world, girls face barriers to education that boys do not. But when you educate a girl, you can break cycles of poverty in just one generation. Statistics offer insights on the current status of girls’ education, and also illustrate the lasting impact education has on girls, families, communities, and nations around the world. Globally, 66 million girls are currently not enrolled in either primary or secondary education. 80% of all human trafficking victims are girls. In a single year, an estimated 150 million girls are victims of sexual violence. Girls with eight years of education are four times less likely to be married as children. Educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school. A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult. Girl Rising gives an awareness of the status of women and an inspirational movie to everyone to work for the wellbeing of girl children.


Increasing Momentum for VAW Prevention, hosted by The GBV prevention network: Isis-Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange (WICCE), The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA Uganda), mentoring and Empowerment Programme for Young Women (MEMPROW), Raising Voices Date: 3/13/13 This panel addressed statistical analysis, solidarity, and collective action as methods for challenging, combatting, and eliminating gender-based violence.  These three methods, with solidarity highlighted in particular, work best when we can recognize that this is emotional, goal-oriented, a process, and a state of being.  We need to address infrastructure and institutional and cultural stigmatization.  We mustn’t only be reactionary.  There is a feminist approach to address root causes and the impact of power.  This calls us to recognize imbalances, work to remove boundaries that prevent us from working together, take a multidisciplinary approach to educating constituents, and work collaboratively on strategy/agenda setting.  There is much work to be done and it can be accomplished as long as we work together.  Not just organization to organization, but also educating one-another, educating regardless of gender, age, and ethnicity – we must connect with each other, get informed, acknowledge and respect each contribution, and very importantly, trust.  We must trust and affirm our actions for positive change.      

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