CSW59: Young women crucial for gender equality fight

CSW59: Young women crucial for gender equality fight

Date: May 13, 2015
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New York, 12 March: For the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, it seems as though the United Nations has heeded the call, “Nothing about us without us.” For the first time in its history, this year’s session has recorded the highest number of youth participating at the meeting and a record 8600 civil society activists have signed up to attend this year’s CSW.

This is good news. For many years, important processes such as these have excluded young people’s voices, with many adults dominating the sessions. The high numbers of young people, especially young women, is a positive step toward achieving more progressive and responsive outcomes that meet the needs of future generations.

But while young people are happy about having greater access at CSW, many are raising concerns about the lack of actual participation in decision-making, and their exclusion in high level sessions where policies are being made.

“We are here, but unable to attend and contribute to major discussions, which are now being held behind closed doors,” lamented Nive Sharat Chandran- Co-President of Young Women of India.

Chandran singled out government meetings and some NGO sessions where the young people are unable to participate. “You can only attend some of the NGO sessions by invitation and we are worried that the youth might not be among the few invited to participate in such meetings.” She explained that because limited invitations are sent out for the closed door meetings, the people participating are more likely to be senior women.

The young women speaking together with Chandran at a meeting called Increasing Inter-generational Dialogue: empowering youth, echoed her concerns. They called on the delegates to ensure that a good percentage of those invited to participate in critical decision-making meetings are young women.

“Please lobby to get young people to have a voice so that their concerns are reflected in every single policy or recommendations to be passed here,” Chandran pleaded with her fellow panelists.

Officials of UN Women attending the meeting assured the young women that they are looking into the issue. This is not the first time young people have complained about exclusion in key decision-making processes.

“While we have accepted young people in major meetings like this, some of the people, who might be influential in determining who attends, still think young people might just bring trouble to such critical meetings,” said one of the delegates who wished to remain anonymous.

Despite this, many women of the older generation whom have made a significant contribution to the women rights movement are keen to hand over the mantle to young women.

The deliberate inclusion of young women in processes like CSW and giving them voice, is the start of handing over the baton. “I think we are on the right track. By ensuring that more and more young women advance women rights, we know the fight will continue long after we are gone. It ensures that the fire keeps burning,” said Cecillia Onyango, a participant from Kenya.

The majority of the older advocates of the women’s movement admit that they were introduced to the struggle at an early age, and that they must ensure that a major void does not remain when they exit the scene. Chandran said it was leadership and mentorship programmes run by the older women activists is what catapulted her into the women’s movement.

For 17-year-old Gema Loor Moreira, activism also started at very early age. “I started paying attention to the unjust violations and abuse women went through, and that popular movements were needed to address them,” she said.

Maile Oumie Sissokho from All Girls Agenda in Gambia, explained that being a victim of female genital mutilation and engaging with other activists against the practice, transformed her into a gender and human rights advocate. “Since then, I have not looked back and taken every opportunity to campaign against FGM and forced marriages.”

The words of these three young women is testament to the need for the women’s movement to remain alive, and deliberate efforts need to be made to nurture young women and men to take over the leadership in fight for gender equality.

This article is part of the Gender Links News Service special coverage of CSW59 currently underway at the UN headquarters in New York, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.



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