The Commission on the Status of Women is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. This year people from all over the world has gathered to discuss the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee waiting to get her UN pass. Photo: Norway UN Mission/Sigrun A Engum
Many of the women and men visiting New York during the commission have spent long hours flying from distant corners of the globe. However, the wait isn’t over just because they’ve reached the city. On the pavement on the opposite side of the UN Headquarters, a long line of people snakes itself some twenty meters out of the door from the UN Security and ID Office. They’re all waiting for their accreditation to visit the Headquarters during the Commission. There are no shortcuts or VIP- lines in this queue; among the crowd, Ms Leymah Gbowee, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2011, can be spotted. She’s waiting patiently, just like everbody else. Luckily none are waiting in vain; once they’ve gotten their passes they can enter the Headquarters and follow the Commission.
General Assembly on the opening of the 56th Session of the CSW. Photo: Norway UN Mission/Sigrun A Engum Opening in the General Assembly
Though people have come earlier to ensure themselves UN-passes and good seats, the official opening of the Commission begin at 10 am in the General Assembly. The room is packed with people from most countries in the world. The seats open to the public are all filled with exited audiences. Everyone’s waiting for the opening statements. One by one the speakers enter the podium, all agreeing on the importance of focus on rural women. As UN Women Executive Director Ms. Michelle Bachelet puts it; “Rural women are on the frontline of climate change. They are managers of natural resources. They are leaders. They know about peace and security. And none of us can afford to perpetuate the barriers facing rural women or to leave them out of decision-making”.
Panel discussion on land rights, food security and sustainable development.
. Photo: Norway UN Mission/Sigrun A Engum Side events
In addition to the main sessions, there are a lot of side events during the Commission. Among those hosted Monday was one arranged by FOKUS, Forum for Women and Development. Norway, represented by Ms Ingrid Fiskaa, State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was one of the panelists debating land rights, food security and sustainable development. Excited listeners applauded and commented upon the different statements as the debate unfolded itself. Talking to two ladies from Kenyan afterwards, they underline the importance of learning from each other and share experience, through talking, debating and being present at event like this one. However, Ms Anette Msabeni-Ngoye underlined that “above all, it’s important to be here at the CSW in order to influence policy and encourage practical changes in order to better the life quality for women”.
Lakhjeet Kaur, a Commission first-timer. Photo: Norway UN Mission/ Sigrun A Engum A lot of talking
Discussions are not only taking place in the different conference rooms. People are engaged in talks in the halls, stairways, the cafeteria and wherever else people meet. On a bench in the Headquarter a Commission first-timer, Ms Lakhjeet Kaur from Great Britain, shares her experience. She says that it’s exciting being here, surveying everything that’s going on. Also, by being present and supporting rural women, one can initiate many positive consequences: “Eventually, you can eradicate hunger, fight HIV and aids, eliminate poverty and even effect global warming”, says Ms Kaur.
The day ending
The sun sinks ever lower over the horizon and the opening session of the Commission on the Security of Women is about to close. Outside the UN Security and ID Office the line is long since gone, but a couple of women are standing there looking a little bewildered. Just out of the plain from Liberia, they’re now realizing they’ve arrived too late to get their passes today, and will have to come back tomorrow. Jet lag and too tired to be taken a picture of, they’re still excited enough to tell why it’s important to attend the CSW; ”This year’s theme on rural woman is very important for Liberia. We’re highly involved in farming and by strengthening women rights we can improve productivity and produce and preserve food more efficiently”, says Ms Tangbae Kortemah-Gbai. Biding the two Liberians goodbye, the sun has set and dusk is falling. The streets are emptying, but there are no doubt that they’ll be filled with more excited chatter and engaged discussions tomorrow – and every day until the last day of the Commission on March 9th.