The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, established in 1946 by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution 11(II). The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Annually, the Commission meets for a two-week session, inviting representatives of UN Member States, civil society organizations, and UN entities to gather at UN headquarters in New York to discuss progress and gaps in the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the key global policy document on gender equality, as well as emerging issues that affect gender equality and the empowerment of women. Afterward, Member States agree on further actions to accelerate progress and promote women’s enjoyment of their rights in political, economic, and social fields where the outcomes and recommendations of each session are forwarded to ECOSOC for follow-up.
During this year’s session (67th session) that took place in New York from March 6th to 17th, the priority theme was “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”, NGO CSW/NY organized almost 800 side events that informed, engaged and inspired grassroots efforts and advocacy needed to empower women and girls. This provided civil society organizations (CSOs) and activists the opportunity to engage in the processes and CSW sessions without ECOSOC- accreditation or a UN ground pass.
MI’s CSW Parallel event
For the first time Msichana Initiative, a youth and young women-led organization from Tanzania hosted a physical parallel event titled “Redefining how young women feminist agency is Supported” that was inspired by the lessons learnt from the East African (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda) Study on How young feminist are organizing. This event brought together 30 participants (29 Female, 1 Male) from different parts of the world. Observation shows that young women face more or less the same challenges in their movements. Young women shared their achievements, struggles in their movement, and their recommendations. They acknowledge their own works in their movement and how it continues to shift norms and discriminatory structures in their communities. On the other hand, they mentioned challenges such as Having little or no support (Financial, social, emotional, and technical) to support their work. They also mentioned bureaucracy and cumbersome procedures in accessing funds as major challenges they are facing. They feel like the current funding structure perpetuates dividing them instead of bringing them together due to the fact most funds are competitive in nature with lots of eligibility criteria such as 5 years’ experience, audited reports for at least 3 years, professional staff, and board members among many others.
Young women suggest that there should be special funding schemes that look into their needs in the movement. As much as they are doing a great job in their community, their effort should be compensated and they should receive long-term and flexible funding. Funding partners(donors) need to engage young women in developing their strategic plans so that their funding schemes can match the needs and context of the young women feminist’s movement.
My Experience Attending NGO CSW 67 as a Young Woman Leader from Global South
My name is Furahini Michael, a young woman from Tanzania and I was also privileged to host the parallel session during the NGO CSW 67. As a young woman from Tanzania who has been a champion for girls’ and women’s rights, such a platform meant a lot to me. To me, the platform meant taking my voice to global spaces, co-learning, and connecting with other young people across the globe, as well as redefining the power of young women in this space. Of course, this gives me the confidence to encourage more young women from Sub-Saharan to organize and apply for hosting parallel events in such global platforms.
In our local contexts, we (young women) are doing a tremendous job which is driven by our passion to transform the community. It is so unfortunate that our efforts go unrecognized with little or no support (financial, social, emotional, and technical) to support our work. Most young women need to do other income-generating work just to support the work they are doing. Their efforts are never compensated which reduces the appetite for young women to stay in the movement and continue to drive change in their community. Funding partner’s representatives that attended the session suggested that there is a need for funders to invest in resourcing themselves to understand young women’s movement better so they can properly cater to their needs and support them better. On the other hand, As young women we need to continue holding hands to work together by supporting each other’s work, sharing experience and knowledge, and building each other’s capacity to push our common agendas in the movement.
To most African Young women having a meaningful engagement in the global spaces is a privilege. Sometimes the setting of the spaces automatically eliminates young women from attending and having meaningful participation. Challenges such as financial implications, Language barriers, and access can become a reason for leaving young women behind.
As a young woman with experience in such spaces, I think that it is high time that organizers of global platforms start rethinking the design of their spaces to reflect the needs and context of most African young women. As much as attending NGO-CSW -67 is such a great opportunity yet there is a need to ensure that no woman is left behind in these important platforms. Taking the CSW-67 as a case study, the Immigration process of entering the USA is so strict that many African women did not get a VISA to attend such an important platform. Nevertheless, the high cost of living in NYC automatically terminates many women to participate in this important platform.
Women and girls especially from the developing countries are affected by many challenges including gender inequalities, high illiteracy rates, poverty, and technological backwardness among many others. The CSW would be a very important platform to share their struggles in the spirit of “Nothing about us, Without us”. It is important that these platforms are created in a way that local young women can meaningfully participate and share their own struggles and proposed solutions instead of speaking on their behalf. During the session, some young women shared the struggles they went through just to attend the forum, while some of their colleagues were unable to attend.
I hope that the future global platforms will reflect the realities of many young women from the global south and allow them to meaningfully participate, celebrate their wins as well as connect with other young women around the globe.