International News May 2017
REPORT ON NCWGB’S DELEGATION TO U.N. COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN
CSW61 – NEW YORK, MARCH 2017
THEME:  ‘WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT IN THE CHANGING WORLD OF WORK’

NCWGB accredited a delegation of 8 members to attend this commission.  Two further Associates withdrew their attendance following the US Government’s travel ban on 7 Muslim countries.   The party of 8 included 4 young women, a school Head, a senior teacher, an NCWGB Associate (and myself).   The purpose of the Commission is to arrive at an AGREED STATEMENT (on the Theme) which member states agree to be guided by and to implement on return to their countries. Approximately 4000 women from 192 countries were present at the Commission this year.   Read more…

Since the closure of the Women’s National Commission, UK NGO’s have formed the UK NGOs CSW Alliance which liaises with the Government Equalities Office in preparing for CSW and submitting written policy Statements on issues of importance to us.   In NY the day begins with an early morning Briefing on the day ahead and ends with attendance at the UK Mission when we hear about the status of the negotiations which took place that day.

The UK Government shows its commitment to CSW by sending a delegation of senior figures from both Houses of Parliament to attend and meet with the UK delegation each evening at the Mission.  Justine Greening and Pritti Patel were among those due to attend this year.  Unfortunately, because of the BREXIT vote all leave for parliamentarians was withdrawn and no-one was able to attend.

During the day delegates may choose which of the events organized by NGOs appeal to them most.  Two young NCYW members gave speeches at two of these events.  The topics were ‘Good Jobs for Young People’ and ‘Leaving No-one Behind.’   UN Women also offers their own programme of events and, of course, official negotiations are taking place which delegates can attend as observers.  It makes for a very busy schedule.

For the first time ever the U.N. building was closed for a day due to a fierce snowstorm which brought New York to a halt.  Unfortunately, one of the events to be cancelled had been arranged by Margaret Owen and involved a woman lawyer Margaret had brought from Iraq to speak on her work representing women refugees who had lived under ISIS and escaped from Mosel.

The GB delegation used the day of the closure to produce a specification of an Activist in the Women’s Movement and to identify the skills and knowledge required to be effective in this role.   These specifications will be considered by the NCYW committee when designing a development plan for our 18+ young women.

The International Council of Women was well-represented in New York.  President Jung Sook-Kim kindly invited our 4 young women to attend her welcoming dinner in a Korean restaurant.  There they were able to meet with members of ICW from around the world and to get an insight into the wide-ranging work and influence of ICW.  Two ICW presentations took place during the week.  These were attended by members of the GB delegation who took an active part, asking questions and making contributions after the speeches.

The UN Ambassador to the UN invited one representative from every organization present to attend an Ambassador’s Reception at the Mission.  I represented NCWGB and Julie Keller, Head of NHSG represented her school and was able to meet some useful and interesting people.

CSW61 was especially important as it was the first CSW to discuss one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.   The experience gave us a feel for the way the SDG’s will be pursued between now and 2030.   I am glad to report that this Commission led to AGREED CONCLUSIONS which all member states are tasked with implementing.*

Our newest member Dunja Relic represents all the young women who attended, when she says:

‘This is the first year that I have attended the United Nations Commission into the Status of Women for their 61st session on women’s economic empowerment in the world of work. It has been a trip of a life time; the new things that I have learnt, the people I have met and the stories I have heard have humbled me, made me less ignorant about world issues and helped me understand that it is my duty to use the privilege that I have, to make a change.’

Our thanks are due to Zarin Hainsworth who heads the UK Alliance for all her untiring and dedicated work in organizing UK Briefings for the delegates, the New York morning briefings, the evening attendances at the UK Mission and for arranging for the 2 NGHS representatives to speak at events during the session.

My personal thanks go to Julie Keller and Sian Crisp of NGHS who not only escorted their own young women but welcomed Dunja Relic into their party.  Julie and Sian made my role extremely easy and were always a delight to share the experience with.

In conclusion, this CSW was a great success for NCWGB.  We had a delegation of 8, (which could have been 10) and actively participated in all aspects of the programme.   Most pleasing was the enthusiasm shown by all the party and their personal resolution to make full use of all that they had experienced and take it forward in their future lives.

*the AGREED CONCLUSIONS can be read on UN Women CSW61 website.

MONICA TOLMAN, CHAIR, INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS.