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Commission on the Status of Women: Day One

Hi everyone! My name is Iuliia and I am an intern at the UN House Scotland. This year, I am humbled to represent UNA-UK at the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (further referred to as CSW63) in New York. The topic of this year’s session is “social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure” which promises to result in a round of challenging, but nevertheless rewarding negotiations. During the next two weeks, I aim to show you the highlights of this Session from my perspective.

Day 1 kicked off with the meeting of the representatives from various non-governmental organisations from the UK. From now onwards, this will be my first morning event over the next two weeks. It will be the opportunity to discuss various issues related to the central theme of CSW, as well as lobbying strategies shared with the other civil societies. Specifically, we will be looking at the best way to fulfil our primary goal – solid and continuous advocacy.

Afterwards, I proceeded to my first parallel event about “Women, Peace and Security”. It was an interesting mix of panellists comprised of one academic and two social activists, ideally complementing each other’s perspectives. The primary theme was transforming the Resolution 1325 into real policy-making. Specifically, we discussed the role of international humanitarian law and how it can ensure protection of women before, during and after armed conflicts. In this way, law can be a starting point in the wider discussion of the women’s status. Two social activists from Cameroon and Libya shared their experiences of community work aimed at supporting Resolution 1325 in action. Both underlined the importance of providing social and psycho-social support to women in conflict areas. The activist from Cameroon emphasised the criticality of media in promoting peace, while the activist from Libya delivered a moving presentation about how women were empowered to participate in the local elections, complete their education and become involved in peace-making processes. Both activists emphasised the main aim behind 1325 – ensuring that “women know their rights and stand by them”; they suggested that the results in doing so are incredibly powerful.

The next stop of my journey was the Reception event organised by the UK Mission to the UN – another great opportunity to meet and speak to the fellow representatives from UK civil society. Having enjoyed the reception for almost 30 minutes, I ran off to the event I was truly looking forward to. It was on Ukraine (my home country) and Social Development, where women shared their personal stories about how conflict influenced their everyday lives. Many of them work in the conflict zone in Eastern Ukraine, where they seek to establish peace through dialogue. It was extremely inspiring for me to attend this event, as it showed the real power of women in the mission of ending the conflict, thus making Ukraine peaceful and prosperous.

Having grasped unmeasurable inspiration from the women in the Ukrainian delegation, we then headed to another side event hosted by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At this event, OSCE presented findings from their extensive survey in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, emphasising the importance of data in making informed public policy decisions. This study was designed as a starting point to eradicate violence against women. Unfortunately, such data revealed that on average, 42% of women do not know actions they can take when experiencing violence. Many women still consider violence as a private matter and therefore prefer not to share it. Such information shows how much work needs to be done in these countries, but also has tremendous potential in leading effective policies based on the specific needs of the countries. This will be the next step in devising measures to tackle gender-based violence by the OSCE in May.

Having finished this event, I got a chance to chat with the representatives of the Ukrainian delegation who told me more about their stories and projects. We strolled around the United Nations headquarters, peeking into the Ministerial meetings in the General Assembly and examining the arts and photo exhibitions on the ground floor.

My last event for today was the first briefing session by the UK Mission to the UN, a wonderful way to end such a productive and informative day. The representatives of the Mission reported on their progress of working alongside colleagues from other EU Member States and from countries in Africa, which has produced great proposals for social protection system priorities. However, challenges remain in their work on this area. Firstly, there needs to be a clarification on the concept of social protection. Achieving an agreed definition by all Member States would lead to establishing the universal right to social protection – our primary long-term goal. Secondly, there is a chance that the Member State delegation from the United States will obstruct the formation of such a consensus on the definition. Hence, close attention is devoted to shifting the US towards agreement rather than opposition, in an effort to prevent a collapse of the aims of CSW63. Our meeting finished with a mini-discussion between the representatives from the NGOs on how to make our work more effective on the group and individual level.

You may have noticed that all these events seem to show one important thing: commitment of every single woman I met today. There was an inexplainable energy in each session, achieved by a mutual recognition of each of their activities, as well as listening to their stories and realising how much more can be done to establish and improve gender-responsive policy. CSW63 is special exactly because it provides this unique chance to gain a multi-dimensional perspective into how social protection could be implemented on the local, national and global levels. This Session connects thousands of incredible women who share their stories about how they empower their local communities, but we too are empowered in our perceptions and capacity as to what we can learn, what we should aspire to and what difference we can make.

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