Attending the United Nations sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women from March 1 until March 10, 2013 was a transformative event for me. This was my first time at the conference and my first time to confer with women from all over the world whose common concern was the place and treatment of women. From Uganda to Denmark, women came to represent Non-governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and to work toward the continuation of improvement in the status of the women in the world.
At the end of my report, readers can see the events which I attended. As a general comment, it was uplifting to talk with women from other countries, many of whom had problems similar to those in the United States, but with entirely dissimilar needs and situations. As an American, I am always surprised at how easy my life as an American woman is when compared to that of a rural, East Asian or African woman. The informative sessions usually were a presentation by delegates from the NGO’s from all over the world, describing the problems, the changes, and/or the stalemates in policy in their organizations. Most were very affirmative in the changes that had happened in the last year. Women from organizing associations had been very active, very hard-working in their tasks to alter policy or public opinion. Their affiliation with the United Nations and the Commission on the Status of Women was a way of keeping in touch with other women’s organizations, with other women who shared their problem-solving abilities in a generous way.
A number of organizations were sponsors of another’s nations’ women: the Italian women, for example, sponsored four women from Iran to talk about their plight in a nation with dramatically few options for women and one with constraints on women from dress to divorce. Their session was private, personal, touching and frightening; there were no cameras, tape recorders, or even telephones allowed in the room. In a former year with such a report by women from Iran, the CSW saw them all arrested the minute they deplaned in Iran! These stories, these witnessing events create a sense of fear and apprehension for the listeners, but many of us gathered with the speakers at the close of the session to applaud their salvation from situations we could only imagine. Simply being informed is part of our responsibility as women and men working for the betterment of our world. I was very proud to be a delegate of the World Council for Curriculum and Instruction and to represent each of our members.
The event which WCCI sponsored under the very capable leadership of Betty Rearden, our woman in New York City whose circle of influence in the peace movement is enormous, was entitled “Avenues to Accountability,” a symposium on Militarism, Trafficking, Exploitations and Justice. It was scheduled on Saturday, March 9, from 12:30 to 4:30 pm at the Fordham Law Center. The session began with an introduction and screening of a film, The Whistleblower; this film describes in vivid detail the journey of local young woman to drug-induced prostitution at the hands of those who offered freedom and legitimate employment, but had only a prisoned life for these women once they had them in captivity. I will not spoil the film for readers, but the shocking part is the source of the captors, men who were thought to be working for good in the war-torn countries of Serbia and Bosnia. This is a commercial film, available on Netflicks or by rental from a number of sources. The film was followed by comments from Madeleine Rees, General Secretary of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, who was an actual character in the story in this film. Her reflections of the actual event were followed by a panel of experts on war, sexual exploitation and the tolerance of trafficking. It was a wonderful afternoon of information and revealing connections between militarism and trafficking of women and girls.
I look forward to returning next year for the full 15 days of this meeting in New York; I would welcome others who can be in NYC and participate as delegates to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Here is a partial account of my time at the CSW:
Sunday, March 3 (all day): Orientation to Commission on Status of Women : Ending Violence Against Women and Girls.
March 3, evening: Ecumenical Women’s Welcome at the Church Center
Monday, March 4:
1. 1. Role of Zambian Women in Ending Violence Against Women and Girls
2. 2. Human Security: What Does It Mean for Women Survivors of Violence in India?
3. 3. Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls in the Caribbean?
4. 4. Network of Women’s Popular Education in Latin American and Caribe
Tuesday, March 5:
1. 1. Violence, Economics, and War: From Theory to Action
2. 2. Cuba after 1959: The Most Successful Literacy Campaign in Modern Day History
3. 3. Status of Women and Girls in the Post-Arab Spring World
4. 4. Grassroots Activism and Global Women’s Conference (5WSW) Millionth Circle Tipping Point
Invitation: Evening Reception
Wednesday, March 6:
1. 1. Violence Against Women in Guatemala: Risks and Remedies
2. 2. Women for Afghan Women
3. 3. Women in Politics
4. 4. Violence in Chile Against Women
Thursday, March 7:
1. 1. Violence Against Women in Nigeria
2. 2. Violence Against Migrant Women and the Human Rights Framework
3. 3. Status of Violence Against Women in Iran (Italian Assn for Women in Development)
Friday, March 8: I took the day to “cruise” through the UN Building, listening and talking to women from 157 countries who were “between sessions”. Very informative and relevant to the sessions . It was good to see the many different ways in which governments are confronting similar problems.
In the late afternoon, I attended a session on Women in Parliament in 2012. This was a stiff reminder of how far European, African, and South American nations have come to getting good representation by women in the decision-making roles of government. In Senegal, for example, women MP’s comprise 42.7% of the Parliament; in the USA, women account for only 18% of the representation.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you in the WCCI at such an important and soul-changing event.
Jessica Kimmel, PhD
Professor & Chair of Graduate Studies
Dreeben School of Education
University of Incarnate WordSan Antonio, Texas, USA