|UN Conference Focuses on “Rural Women”|
UN Conference Focuses on “Rural Women”
By Erica Higbie, FAWCO UN NGO Representative in New York
The 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was held at the United Nations in New York from Feb 27 to March 9. This year’s forum, organized by UN Women and civil society organizations like FAWCO, was focused on issues faced by “rural women.” Over 4,000 women and 500 youth delegates from around the world attended 350 sessions with topics which included gender equality, climate change, and violence against women, food security, education, healthcare, and access to resources such as water. The sessions related to water were particularly relevant to FAWCO because “clean water” is the focus of FAWCO’s
Target Program fundraising for water pumps in Cambodia.
Many of the attendees were themselves rural women but a number of notable human rights leaders also came to speak, and listen. They included Ban ki Moon, Secretary General of the UN; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and currently head of UN Women.
Ms Bachelet summed up the conversations going during the conference when she said, “...the biggest challenges everywhere are political participation and economic empowerment — and ending violence against women. No country is spared - even in the most advanced countries...”These are some of the troubling facts that were presented at CSW56 which support her comments:
however, they make up less than 20% of the world’s landowners.
The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1997, addresses many of these issues and progress has been made on many fronts. Sadly, the United States is one of only 6 countries (together with Sudan, Somalia, Iran, and two small pacific island nations) that have not ratified CEDAW.
But speakers also talked about progress being made with many accounts of incredible people and organizations putting their time, energy and money into improving women’s lives.
The 2011 World Development Report was presented. It highlighted the great strides that have been made in women’s life expectancy and education:
When these CSW women (who after 2 weeks were all calling each other ‘sister’) look to the future, several key messages stand out.
First, women and girls are the key to sustainable development because in developing countries they are the agricultural producers and natural resource managers.
Second, in an effort to get ahead of some of the issues that burden women today programs for girls are cropping up everywhere such as Girls Grow (Nike), GirlUp (UN Foundation), Working Group on Girls (formerly part of UNICEF). “The girls’ movement” is now part of UN speak.
Third, civil society NGOs are critical to development because they do the work at the grass roots level. They understand what is really going on and they give a voice to people that would never be heard otherwise. Partnerships between civil society, governments and the private sector are proving to be very successful. And finally, it is critical to involve men and boys in women’s issues if women are to achieve lasting change.
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