Report on the New York Commission on the Status of Women

Report on the New York Commission on the Status of Women

Sr Alison Munro joined a Dominican delegation in New York at the Commission on the Status of Women, CSW58.  Here is her report:


Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58), 10-21 March 2014

Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls

Dominican Sisters at Sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women, New York

Dominican Sisters from across the globe, representing the different zones of Dominican Sisters International (DSI) spent a week and a half in New York at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58).  The sisters were Pilar del Barrio (Spain), Maria Alejandra Leguizamon Schija (Peru), Anne Fitzgerald (USA), Cecelia Espenilla (Philippines) and Alison Munro (South Africa) who joined Sr Margaret Mayce, the Dominican Sisters fulltime representative at the United Nations. Different religious congregations have representation in NGOs with United Nations observer status and work towards influencing United Nations work and resolutions.

The Commission on the status of Women (CSW), a commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) established in 1946 and dedicated to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women promotes women’s rights in political, economic, civil and educational fields.  It meets annually to review progress, identify challenges, set global standards and norms and formulate policies.  Non governmental organizations are able to participate.  The 58th session addressed progress made on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), due to be achieved in 2015 , and on the 2011 conclusions regarding access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology, and employment.  The conclusions are negotiated by all States. Other resolutions are also adopted, highlighting key issues.

While it was impossible to attend all sessions and to follow all issues, overlapping issues emerged, and frightening facts and concerns were highlighted, some of which are mentioned here:

There was no Millennium Development Goal to address the challenges raised by violence against women in general, and domestic violence.  Sometimes rape in situations of disaster and conflict is perceived to be worse than rape elsewhere:  it isn’t.  Children are forced by cultural practices, by poverty, by demands of labour situations, even by their own families into early marriages. Female genital mutilation continues to be a concern, insufficiently addressed.

The trafficking in human beings happens within countries, and from one country to others, often linked to poverty, to employment opportunities, to migration.  Often there are gaps in law enforcement.  Women’s voices go unheeded in the various aspects of peace and security processes during conflict and in post conflict situations.  Women need to be at the table, sometimes as early warning systems, and beyond.  The Security Council of the United Nations is now listening to Syrian women; that idea must go elsewhere as well.

Education and training is a major concern as there is often insufficient access to education for girls, 31 million of whom who are out of school.  The transition from primary to high school is the age to be targeted, and countries need to settle for more than primary education for girls. The health issues of girls and young women highlight that they bear the brunt of suffering re child birth, maternal health and maternal mortality.  It is estimated that up to 45% of first sexual encounter is forced.  The impact of HIV and AIDS on health, even with 12 million people on treatment worldwide, is still of concern; new infections are falling, but new infections among women are on the rise.  Among domestic workers, 21 million live in exploitative labour conditions, denied decent work and living wages.  Women’s work is often not recognised and is mostly unpaid.

Women access the internet less than men do, and there are not enough young women getting computer science degrees. Access to information and communications technologies has to become more affordable in the poorest areas.  There also needs to be adequate legislation and reform of internet policies to deal with the dark side of the internet and cybercrime.

What was obvious over the days the Commission sat was the emphasis given to key themes and concerns, many of which are issues in countries and regions across the world, not only in certain countries even when one or more of them may have particular issues to do deal with.  The major themes covered included challenges re Millennium Development Goals (due to be achieved in 2015, though clearly that won’t happen), gender equality, women in conflict situations, violence against women, maternal mortality, women and AIDS, and women in natural disasters. The Post 2015 Development Agenda, in addressing the identified concerns and issues facing the global community, must commit to the new Sustainable Development Goals, protecting human rights of all citizens and “growing” all people.

A major concern remains that there is nothing to hold member states accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

Sr Alison Munro of the Dominican Congregation of Oakford, Natal (South Africa) is one of the Dominican Sisters invited by Dominican Sisters International (DSI) to participate in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) in New York in March 2014