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On the 54th UN Commission
on the Status on Women

by Monika Biswas, SCM BangladeshMonika Biswas

Participating in the 54th United Nations Commission on the Status on Women (UNCSW) was a unique experience The First World Conference on Women, almost thirty-five years ago, promoted the vision of “equality, development and peace” as a guide for enhanced global, regional and national actions to advance the status of women. In Copenhagen and Nairobi, commitments to women’s rights continued to be articulated. The adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for Equality, Development and Peace was, then, a consolidation of previous efforts to link the issues and major obstacles for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women. These documents, which outline twelve critical areas of concern and actions needed to address them is still in 2010 the global policy framework for women and girls. Hence the 54th CSW planned to review the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as the priority theme during the session.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. It is the principal global policy-making body. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.

This year the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was held on 1st March to 12th March 2010 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The CSW focused on reviewing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was adopted 15 years ago with the support of 40,000 women. Around 8500 women and men from the NGOs, civil societies, faith-based groups, students, youth, government officials participated in the said event.

For the past 3 years, WSCF has been bringing a delegation of young women and men to the UNCSW and have been making a strong advocacy impact as well as gaining skills, training, networks and relationships to bring back to our SCMs. This year also WSCF participated in a joint-delegation with the World Council of Churches through the Ecumenical Women, which is an international coalition of Christian denominations and ecumenical organizations at UN (www.ecumenicalwomen.org). 18 Ecumenical organizations participated through the network of Ecumenical Women. Eight delegates from six regions (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, North America & South America) represented WSCF.

The CSW was a platform for various activists to discuss/debate to strengthen the ongoing struggle for women’s emancipation. In addition to the many events, the NGO committee also facilitated various activities on different women’s issues. This was also a time for the Ecumenical Women network to praying and worshiping together as we continue to participate on the forums.

WSCF and WCC jointly organized the forums on End Impunity violence Against Women, Establish Economic Justice, Gender, Power and Decision-Making. I also had an opportunity to bring the concerns of violence again women in Bangladesh to the forum. I could see the global solidarity in the forum which made me feel empowered while speaking about the women in Bangladesh. My country is far from achieving our goal and it is a challenge to keep this movement going. The faith based groups have a greater responsibility to restore violence free society, hence it is important to address the issue of gender equity within the Church as a faith based organization. The church ought to be the model for society through its wholistic approach for God’s creation and the youth and student movements like SCMs should act an agent to promote gender justice.

This was a wonderful opportunity for me to gain this unique experience. This platform provided a space for me to interact with various women involved in the struggle for gender justice in grassroots level and also in the decision making level to learn from each other and establish network for the common cause.

Apart from the great experience through the CSW, I too had some challenges to attend this event. I was anxious due to the complicated visa process for a South Asian woman. The 2nd challenge was the language. Since English is not my 1st language, I had to struggle a bit to cope up, but with the help and cooperation of the friends in WSCF I was able to overcome this barrier. I am very much thankful to WSCF for providing this wonderful opportunity to participate in the 54th UNCSW.