CSW Report Back | Day 1
CSW Report Back | Day 1
Speaking from the first day of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) the NCOSS Women's delegation reports back on the experiences of women and girls pursuing gender equality around the world.
On International Women’s Day – the day before I was set to jet off to New York for CSW62 – I was part of a panel discussion on intersectional feminism. I was nervous – more nervous than I had ever been for any speaking job before – because it was the first time my mum, sisters, old school friends and people in the community I had grown up in had ever heard me speak in a public setting. That’s a bit beside the point – the point is that the panel was on intersectional feminism, which has become a bit of a passion point for me.
I’d not really come across the term intersectional until a couple of years ago, through NCOSS (who are also partially-sponsoring my trip to CSW). I’d been practicing intersectionality my whole life without having known the word. I’m young, I’m a woman, I’m Aboriginal, and I grew up in a regional area. Those are the communities that I belong to. I was a feminist before I even had the right words to describe it. To me, feminism is about breaking down injustice – I can’t stand to see any kind of unfairness, or worst, discrimination, whether that directly affects me or not. It was obvious to me to advocate for the rights of my fellow young people and Aboriginal people, but also to advocate for the rights of the LGBQTI people in my life, the people with disability I have met, the older people and Elders I love and respect.
On the International Women’s Day panel another young woman said ‘if your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t feminism’. I don’t think anything could be truer, and I’ve heard that sentiment echoed throughout the halls of the United Nations today. I heard from women from all over the world today, women from different religious backgrounds, from different social classes, different races and spiritualties, different careers and ages, speaking different languages, but coming together for one thing.
Mary Darling has made a sitcom about Muslims, with the direction of the Muslim community, of course. ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’ has strong female characters, and a witty dialogue that aims to break down stereotypes about religion, and especially women who follow religion. Ms Darling said the show, as well as the wider idea of intersectionality is making sure women’s true voices are being heard – not just the voices of a privileged few. “There is room for discourse,” she said. “It’s being able to get to the table and thinking who should be there with you. You always have to consider whose voice is missing from the dialogue.” That’s such an important sentiment.
If you’ve got privilege, how do you make sure someone who has less privilege than you has their voice heard in a meaningful way? On my first day of CSW I am checking in with my own privilege, realising how lucky I am to be here, and asking who is missing from these discussions, and how I can be helpful in projecting those voices. The answer I’ve come up with is to listen, to learn and to use what I learn to make meaningful change – allow myself to be challenged, as well as to learn more than I speak. That’s the attitude I’m taking into the next couple weeks, and perhaps the world would be a better place if we all learnt to not just tolerate each other but actually value what others have to say.
Today, on day one of CSW62 in New York, staff and participants of the “Young Women’s Development Group” in Chechen Republic of Russia presented their ground-breaking project on a global stage to the CSW audience.
In the Chechen Republic, traditional values and social norms see girls growing up to believe they are destined to be wives and homemakers, that their opinion will be disregarded, that they have no decision making power and that violence against women is accepted.
The Young Women’s Development Group (the project) aims to empower young Chechen women to pursue education, employment and to dare to dream beyond the home. The project supports young women from age 15 years to investigate their passion, develop personally and professionally, inspire and challenge them, and realise their potential. Social Workers and psychologists work with the women one on one and in groups, challenging their thinking, building relationships of trust, building capabilities, breaking down barriers like stereotypes, and providing them with tools to avoid violence or recover when violence occurs. Three women who had completed the program were in the delegation. One reflected on her upbringing, ‘I was taught not to study or read, just to clean, wash and cook. My opinion was cast aside as not important’. The young women were accompanied by their social workers and psychologists. Social worker Gulnara Saitova explained that ‘It is my mission to broaden their perspective, their vision and open their potential’. So far the results speak for themselves. One participant is completing her final year studying architecture, another had fixed a dilapidated staircase which led to employment and another had found her voice after feeling ashamed of herself and her name all her life.
The presentation was well attended and very well received. When asked by an audience member ‘what the delegation hoped to get out of attending CSW?’, one responded ‘In Russia domestic violence had been de-criminalised so I can only be here for inspiration’.
Pictured left to right: Zarema Mukusheva (Young Women’s Development Group), Venera Minazova (Young Women’s Development Group), Penny Dordoy (NCOSS) and Gulnara Saitova (Young Women’s Development Group).
Violence against Women in Rural Areas & the Support Shelters Offer
Welcoming the new Chair to Global Network of Women’s Shelter (GNSW), Chi Hui Jung, opened the ‘Violence against Women in Rural Areas & the Support Shelters Offer” event. Outlining the importance of the GNSW and its priorities - supporting physical security and economic security for women in rural and regional areas around the world, GNSW promoted the upcoming 4th Conference in Taipei with over 2000 expected participants from more than 120 different countries.
WESNET, an Australian NGO, pinpointed the realities of what rural and regional women face:
- lack of services in rural areas;
- lack of awareness of services in rural areas; and,
- lack of understanding around what constitutes as DV.
WESNET spoke about their Safe Program which is a partnership with Telstra to provide phones to women and children experiencing and in the process of leaving FDV. This program runs through 227 Safe Connections Local Agencies across Australia with 908 frontline workers and has reached out to 5787 women and children. Acknowledging the double edged sword of technology, that is:
- Technology can be used to abuse, stalk and/or control women and children; however,
- Technology can be a medium to connect women and children with the world – to keep safe and collect evidence of FDV.
A brave audience member from the crowd shared her personal story and asked a compelling question to the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelter (CNWS), Lise Martin, about trans-identifying women’s inability to access women shelters in Canada at this stage. She asked, ‘What is the CNWS doing to address this issue?” Lise responded that the CNWS will be working to draft policies about trans-identifying women’s access to women’s shelter.
Economic Empowerment of Women: A brief experiential story
Women’s World Banking (WWB) brings banks to women. Research, observation, and assess done through a gender lens. Sounds basic. But, WWB was introduced as the only financial institution that is putting this into practice and making it a reality.
WWB has researched the unique needs of rural women, plus the cultural needs, and has broken down the real household income contribution ratio between men vs. women in rural and regional areas. In Malawi, WWB introduced banking to regional areas, with no fees or interest for any money saved in an account. Across Latin America, WWB has also introduced loans attached to activities that are conducted by women in rural areas – e.g. selling cheese, eggs, textiles etc. In Pakistan, WWB trained guddi bajis to become women agents that can make banking accessible to rural women, which caters to cultural taboo around women speaking with men.
With thanks to our partners and sponsors that have made this trip possible.