Monday, March 4, 2013

Opening session of the CSW57

This morning at 10 the CSW57 was officially started in the General Assmebly Hall. Marjon V. Kamara (Liberia) of the African States Group, Chair of the CSW57, opened the session. Click here to watch the video with her lively welcome message (and see photo).

Deputy UN Secretary General Jan Eliasson opened the CSW57 on behalf of Mr. Ban Ki-Moon. He made a nice implicit reference to Amartya Sen’s understanding of human rights:  “Every woman has the right to live a life free from fear of violence.” He also quoted Malala Yousafzai, the young women’s education activist from Pakistan who was recently shot by the Taliban and miraculously recovered: “Because of peoples prayers, god has given me a new life, and I will not stop to advocate for education for all girls and women.” Which I think is an inspiring example of the positive role faith can have to give people the strenght to address injustices.

Michelle Bachelet, Director of UN Women, silenced the General Assembly hall with some horrifying stories from women who experienced violence in their life. A 15 year old girl being kidnapped in conflict and raped by 3 to 5 men every night during a week, a woman who is afraid to go home with her salary….

Bachelet summarized UN Women’s 5 priorities to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls:
  1. Strengthen and implement laws, end impunity.
  2. More focus on prevention – address the root causes of gender inequality and violations of women’s human rights. This includes rights to sexual and reproductive health. It also includes involving boys and men.
  3. Togetherness: a comprehensive and coordinated strategy. This for example means not sending a victim of trafficking back to her country of origin, where she may be excommunicated or worse.
  4. Access to services. Besides services for survivors, this also means services that can empower women, such as economic empowerment and access to sexual and reproductive health services.
  5. Reliable data on the scale and forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls.

Bachelet also recalled that the last CSW on Violence Against Women, which took place in 2003, was the first in history not to result in Agreed Conclusions (last year was the second time). So whereas I always thought that violence against women and girls was the one topic related to gender equality that really no-one could disagree on, it turns out to be a tough issue to crack.

 Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Rashida Manjoo, highlighted some of the principles of the report, which I believe will be crucial – though often controversial - during the days to come. Such as the universality of human rights, meaning they apply to every human being in spite of economic, political, social and cultural context – such as religion and traditions.  The existence of both individual and structural discrimination against women and girls. That economic and social inequalities exist between women and men, as well as between women. And the importance of addressing sexual orientation and gender identity as a reality of many people in the world.

In the next blogpost I’ll give an overview of the statements by the different world regions, which gives an idea of their positions related to “gender equality” and SRHR.

= Joni van de Sand = 

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