By Desiree Hoffman
Director of Advocacy, YWCA USA
It’s that time of year again. Non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) from around the world, Representatives of Member States and UN entities have arrived in New York City to attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The UN CSW was established in 1946 – 1 year after the UN was created. The YWCA has been involved in the UN CSW since its inception.
Every year, leading up to opening day, the World YWCA hosts an Advocacy Training to prepare YWCA women from around the globe to be effective advocates for the year’s priority theme. This year, the theme is Challenges and Achievements in the Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for Women and Girls. The eight MDGs include:
- Halving extreme poverty rates,
- Halting the spread of HIV/AIDS,
- Providing universal primary education,
- Promoting gender equality and empowerment,
- Reducing child mortality,
- Improving maternal health,
- Ensuring environmental sustainability, and,
- Global partnerships for development.
The MDGs form a blueprint agreed to by UN countries and leading development institutions, and will expire at the end of 2015. The World YWCA provided all of its attendees with ample information to urge UN delegates to include language in the draft conclusions to end violence against women, access to sexual and reproductive health, encourage meaningful participation of young women, and be able to access education, economic empowerment and resources. The position paper, Her Future, is the framework that we use to deliver this message.
Another event the YWCA attends is NGO Consultation Day, wherein advocates join together and hear from experts about the MDGs, share priorities on issues impacting women and girls, and begin thinking about the theme for next year’s CSW. What I took away from this session is that the 1980s through the 1990s were viewed as the “decade of women,” with numerous world conferences taking place in those years. The first UN Conference was held in Mexico City in 1975, and the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. However, we haven’t had any World Conferences in nearly 20 years.
The question is, why haven’t we had another world conference when today there are urgent problems facing women and girls, in the US and abroad, that deserve attention? Some of the speakers expressed that it is because of a lack of political appetite from member states, and that there is fear that, if another Conference were to be held, it may not further the Beijing Platform for Action. I can see why that is the case. If you look at the Beijing Platform for Action, the 12 areas of concern that were laid at are still relevant to the issues we continue to face today. However, without a new convention, many women like myself who were too young to be present in 1995 will not have an opportunity to raise new and emerging concerns affecting our communities. LGBT, immigrant women, young women, Millennials, Gen X and Gen Y are all ready to come to the table, and to build on the work of previous Conferences.
After the NGO Consultation Day, the YWCA USA hosted a reception that included World Service Council members, staff from YWCAs from around the world, YWCA USA Board Members, and leadership from our local associations. It was a wonderful way to wrap up a day and ponder on the objectives, dreams, and goals before us.