United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

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Every year the United Nations (UN) hosts the Commission on the Status of Women discussions. It’s two weeks of discussions, meetings, panels and more to discuss the challenges women around the world face and propose solutions and measures to support and empower them. This year was the 62nd session of the Commission and I had the unique opportunity to attend through a class here at Rutgers!

My temporary UN Pass

This year, the priority theme was “challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls” and the review theme was “participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women.” Throughout the conference there are three types of events. There are the official discussions among delegates from different countries, side events sponsored by different permanent missions hosted in the United Nations buildings, and parallel events sponsored by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) hosted in locations near the United Nations building.

 

I attended several events, some in the United Nations and some in nearby locations. One of the events I attended was titled “Shouldering the Burden: Rural Women and Climate-Induced Displacement” sponsored by the mission from Bangladesh and the NGO Committee on Migration. This event featured several panelists, including a Member of Parliament (MP) from Bangladesh and the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, as well as representatives from the Food and Agricultural Organization, the International Organization for Migration, and more. The discussion focused on the particular vulnerability of women and children to climate-induced displacement due to natural disasters and climate change, especially in Bangladesh. Climate-induced displacement is a huge issue that affects those who have done little to cause climate issues. Solving this issue cannot focus only on those who are suffering the effects of climate change and natural disasters, but must also focus on slowing or stopping climate change.

Panelists on Climate-Induced Displacement

 

I also attended an event titled “Success Factors in Ending Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)” sponsored by Amref Health Africa. The panel featured Nice Nailantei Leng’ete, a woman who escaped FGM in her home country of Kenya and has been a fierce activist against FGM and a supporter of alternate rights of passage for girls. Representatives from Women Deliver and Equality Now were also present on the panel. The discussion focused on the cultural and legal approaches to ending FGM. Equality Now focuses on sponsoring strategic litigation to protect girls against FGM. There are many obstacles in eradicating FGM from governments, cultures, men, and even other women. In Kenya, where there is an anti-FGM law in place currently, several women have filed a case claiming that the anti-FGM law is unconstitutional as it prevents them from practicing their culture. FGM is a controversial topic, and one that is practiced all over the world. The psychological and physical trauma these girls face is something that is difficult to imagine. To eradicate this practice, work must be done on every level, from changing cultural practices in local communities to implementing laws at the national and international level.

 

There were a multitude of other events which discussed nearly everything having to do with women’s rights and empowerment. The fight for women’s rights and empowerment still has a long way to go but it is through conferences and discussions like these that make a different on the global stage.

 

To learn more about rural women’s empowerment you can read the expert group report released before the conference here and look for the final resolution agreed upon by countries around the world!