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14 March 2018
UN holds largest ever Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-62)
By Stephen F. Moseley, President, UNA-NCA

This week and next (March 12 to 23) more than 3,500 women and men are meeting in and all around the UN Headquarters in New York City to address the theme Challenges and Opportunities in Achieving Gender Equality and Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls. This annual event for the past 61 years brings together CSW representatives from all the member countries of the UN, and has participants from local grass roots civil society organizations, international non-governmental organizations, and includes most of the UN agencies. One unfortunate and sad note is the fact that hundreds of people who had applied on time for their visas, and already had prepared their presentations for panels did not get their visas from the US embassies to come to the US.   These are unrelated to the larger political issues surrounding visas from some countries, and may be a reflection of the staffing and management status of our embassies.

The CSW deliberations and outcome recommendations for policy and actions will build on both the seminal Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action set in 1995, the Sustainable Development Goals for 2015 to 2030, and the series of Resolutions and Treaties by the UN which have tried to support and protect women's rights on many issues, going all the way back 70 years to the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The extraordinary attendance this year from all countries and from across the US reflects the energy and commitments of many who are protesting the curtailment and growing infringement of women's equal rights in most countries and the growing public recognition of the violence and abuse of women and girls still so endemic in our cultures for both the rich and poor communities.  Many members of UNA-NCA are participating in the CSW 62 meetings which include official level meetings in the UN with selected delegates, a series of substantive panels called “Side Events” inside the UN buildings, plus hundreds of so called “Parallel Events” held mainly by CSO'S and NGO's in three venues in the city involving thousands who are not in the official delegations.  UNA-USA also has an official delegation for CSW, and a substantial number of other chapter members attend CSW events in several capacities.

One of the most striking messages of concern voiced by many rural women panelists from countries from all world regions, was the reports and data presented about interference and often illegal collaboration to fraudulently steal or confiscate land owned by women and their families. These are being done by large national and international companies with the complicity of national government agencies, and by some of the major international counties directly or through thousands of non-transparent conduit organizations. The many stories told of land grabs from rural women entrepreneurs and farm families, theft and destruction of farm habitats, and loss of the essential harvesting and protection of indigenous seed stocks and species, is on the rise everywhere. Defenseless communities are increasing, left with the devastating alternative of being forced into impoverished urban circumstances. Some described this as forced "de-ruralization."

This growing pattern of industrial invasion without respecting human and civil rights, especially impacting women, children and youth, both girls and boys, threatens to undermine the progress toward the 2030 Goals for women's and girls’ equality, fair treatment of small entrepreneurs, and the further evidence of partnerships for corrupt corporate-government collaboration attacking the most vulnerable communities and populations.

The CSW is working to counter these and other injustices to women, by supporting more participation and access of women to media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on the their uses as an instrument of the advancement and empowerment of women. In other words: Investing in education and training that directly builds women's leadership to counter their marginalization. Many sessions have been devoted to advocacy training, fundraising for rural women's enterprise, and ending child marriage.  Other sessions addressed the need to change the paradigm of defining sexual abuse only in antiquated definition of criminal actions which often disadvantage the rights of women and advantage men as accepted cultural behaviors. Other programs also reflected on the double-sided threat of media use to harass and silence women with threats and perpetuation of sexual stereotyping of women.

Against the backdrop of increasing security investments in mainly military approaches aimed usually at preserving the security of the state, more attention is being discussed and approached through the lens of "human security" to focus attention on emerging threats to security and well-being of individuals and communities.  Security in these cases, to protect citizens from military, and from widespread traditional diseases in rural areas.

For more information download the free app for CSW 62 on iTunes and Google Play, or go to the UN Women website.  Also watch for the announcement of UNANCA's Human Rights Committee's project Stand Up for Human Rights,  which is now seeking stories in the Greater Washington Area to highlight, share and map instances of Sexual harassment and violence against Women in the District of Columbia.