On March 10, the 58th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women launched into official meetings at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. As a young woman serving as a YWCA delegate, I came to the UN with three goals: to advocate for women’s rights on a global platform; to become a stronger ambassador for the YWCA movement; and to gain a global perspective of the inequalities facing women and girls around the world.
By Danielle Marse-Kapr Senior Advocacy and Policy Associate
This week, I had the honor of attending the 58th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). While the CSW occurs over the course of two weeks, NGOs from around the world lobby their representatives in support of the issues most impacting the women they represent. And, while the CSW debates these points, NGOs plan “side events” where they gather to discuss women’s issues from every perspective – safety, poverty, health, political rights, etc.
Danielle (third from right), with panelists from YWCAs in Australia, New Zealand, Malawi, and Palestine, discussing young women’s leadership.
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.
By Kay Philips Chair of the YWCA Pacific Region Advocacy Committee
This year, the Rose Parade in Pasadena, C.A. on New Year’s Day will feature a float honoring the women pilots of World War II. Almost three years ago (in March 2010), 300 remaining women pilots of the 1,100 women pilots who served during World War II were honored in Washington, D.C. with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Most were in their late 80’s and 90’s. (Read more about the honorees who will also be on the Rose Parade float.)
By Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D. CEO of the YWCA USA
On November 14, I had the incredible honor to travel to Pilgrim Place in Claremont, Calif., to spend a wonderful afternoon with eight of my YWCA Sisters: Elizabeth Palmer, Mary Douglas, Dorothy Hartzler, Betty Jo Anderson, Lou Ann Parsons, Laura Fakuda, Mary Douglas, Barbara Mensendiek, Marilyn Brunger and Elizabeth Clarke. Each of these ladies played a significant role in shaping the YWCA, as leaders in our movement.
Bottom row: Dara with Elizabeth Palmer. Second row (left to right): Dorothy Hartzler, Betty Jo Anderson, Lou Ann Parsons, Laura Fakuda, Mary Douglas, Barbara Mensendiek, Marilyn Brunger and Elizabeth Clarke.
On Friday, March 15, United Nations officials from 130 member states adopted their agreed conclusions, a 17-page document setting global standards for action to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. It was the culmination of two weeks of discussion, work and “coming together” at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57).
By issuing this document, governments have made clear that discrimination and violence against women and girls has no place in the 21st century. They have reaffirmed their commitment and responsibility to take concrete actions to end violence against women and girls, and to promote and protect women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms, as Michelle Bachelet, former UN Women Executive Director, outlined when the document was presented.
The adoption of these agreed conclusions provides concrete steps for all nation states to address what we know all too well here in our own country. In the United States, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in a year, and, on average, more than three women will be murdered by their partners every day. 500 women are sexually assaulted each day in America. Globally, as many as seven out of every 10 women will experience violence in their lifetimes. 67 million girls are forced into marriage before the age of 18, according to the U.N. Population Fund. Unfortunately, many cases of rape and violence of women and girls in every country never make the news, but there is consensus now that they must be addressed so that victims can find safety and protection.
For the next two weeks, government delegates and representatives from over 6,000 organizations across the world will be meeting in New York for the 57th UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The CSW meets annually to assess the progress of gender equality in countries around the world, and to develop standards and resolutions to promote the equality and empowerment of women.
The CSW theme for 2013 is the “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls,” making this year’s focus particularly relevant to the YWCA. As a representative from the YWCA USA, this event provides a meaningful opportunity to join together with women’s organizations from across the world to discuss how violence touches lives in every community and every country around the world and what movements and tactics have been effective in addressing this widespread issue.
What has been striking so far in these events and discussions with representatives from across the globe is the commonality of the issue of violence against women (VAW). This violence can manifest in countless ways: intimate partner violence, sexual assault; the restriction of sexual and reproductive health and education; sex trafficking; and even discrimination in the workforce and in the political system. Communities and countries may be at different points in the development of support systems and services, government laws and policies, and public awareness around the issue, but violence against women is still at an epidemic level on every continent.
November 6, 2012 will always be a memorable day in my book. It was the day I took my longest international trip – 18 hours from my home city of Washington, D.C., with pit stops in Dallas, T.X. and Tokyo. My final destination was Seoul, Korea, where I was chosen by the World YWCA to attend an International Training Institute (ITI) on Violence Against Women and Peacebuilding.
November 6 is also the same day that President Obama won a second term in the White House, winning battleground states like Ohio, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. When I landed in Tokyo, I ran to the nearest TV and, although I couldn’t understand Japanese, it was clear by the electoral map shaded in red and blue who had won.
The next day, I woke up feeling desperate for a cup of coffee. But that need slowly dissipated when I met women at breakfast from New Zealand, Great Britain, Zambia, Lebanon, Columbia and other countries. We made small talk about our journeys to Seoul as we ate a traditional Korean breakfast, which included rice and kimchee.
In Her Shoes is a series that profiles young women working in YWCAs across the country.
Zillah Wesley currently serves as a Board Member for the YWCA of the National Capitol Area in Washington, D.C. Zillah has served as a board member for five years and is an active chair of Communications for the YWCA USA Young Women’s Committee. Zillah works as a teacher for the non-profit New Community for Children, which provides children and youth with learning experiences that build their academic, social and creative skills.
YWCA: Describe your normal day from your first morning coffee and on…
ZW: Well, it depends on what day of the week it is for me. As the communications chair of the YWCA USA Young Women’s Committee, I am responsible for threading young women’s voices into the national mission of the YWCA. We meet once a month to discuss innovative communication campaigns that will engage young women. Then, I turn my focus to my job that pays the bills: I work for a non-profit called New Community for Children in Washington, D.C.
A delegation of 21 young women from across the globe represented the World YWCA at AIDS 2012, the 19th Annual International AIDS Conference, in Washington, D.C., July 22 to 27. These leaders, all united by the common goal of finding effective solutions and approaches to HIV and AIDS that affirm and protect the rights of women, blogged about their reflections on their experience:
Brenda Martinez (far left) of the YWCA USA expressed her reflections on the first day of the gathering. Martinez began the day at 5:30 a.m. and was soon reminded of the great diversity of the World YWCA after her first encounter with a few of the other delegates. “I was quickly exposed to different cultural customs… and quickly reminded that I did not know much of the world,” she expressed. However, the gathering presented a rewarding opportunity to overcome language and cultural barriers as they united around YWCA’s mission and work.