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Inspiring Change - Campaigning at the CSW

Perhaps no time of year is as intense for gender rights activists as the month of March, when lobbying at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and organising events to celebrate International Women's Day guarantees a number of sleepless nights.

Rosa Lizarde - of the Feminist Task Force - has compiled a list of notable quotes to capture the spirit of the CSW negotiations and the women who tirelessly campaign for gender equality.

"At a time when speaking up for justice, or just being yourself, can result in a woman being attacked, beaten, threatened, violated, insulted and shunned, let us seek inspiration for CHANGE, JUSTICE, EQUALITY, EQUITY and the fulfillment of WOMEN'S HUMAN RIGHTS in the words of everyday heroes," writes Lizarde, who is also the civil society co-chair of the Policy and Strategy Group (PSG) of The World We Want 2015. "Here are inspiring messages from the CSW and a “People's Voices” side event organised by the PSG and FTF.”

Read on to learn more about the outcomes of this year's CSW as well as Lizarde's list of inspiring quotes for change.

What happened at the 2014 CSW?

Speaking at the 4th UN World Conference on Women in 1995, Hillary Clinton - who was then the First Lady of the United States - stood in Beijing and declared "women's rights are human rights", lifting to international prominence a phrase coined years earlier by activists.

Nearly 20 years later, many of the same rights violations that Clinton highlighted persist, including female infanticide, gender-based violence, human trafficking, genital mutilation and a lack of access to safe abortion.

But the struggle to realise women's rights continues on a daily basis as well.

At this year's CSW, conservative governments – and the Vatican – pushed back against language on sexual and reproductive rights as well as on other key issues. But they did not win the day. While campaigners did not get everything they would have liked at the CSW, either, there is a sense that progress has been made.

The CSW outcome document affirms that climate change disproportionately affects women and girls and has specific references to sex education programmes for young people. a woman's right to abortion services and the elimination and prevention of violence against women and girls. The CSW also calls for a stand-alone Post-2015 goal on gender equality and argues that gender equality must underpin all Post-2015 goals.


Inspiring Change

"Sexual education is not just something that happens between the legs, it happens between the ears." ~ El Salvador delegate

"We won't give in to conservatism against women worldwide.  We'll continue to struggle for our rights." ~ Egyptian delegate

“Indigenous women’s voices are essential . . . because we cannot be distracted, intimidated, bribed, raped, or beaten into giving up our roles of protecting our great grandmother Earth.  The world needs to hear our direction on how to develop and grow economically, while hold(ing) our winds, waters, and lands in trust for future generations. ~ Lori Johnston of Yamasi Peoples.  

Lori comes from a matrilineal line of indigenous women leading civil government in the original nations of southeast North America.  She and hundreds of thousands of indigenous citizens live alongside 100 million newcomers.

“Rural African women are the central indicator used to measure development outcomes . . . (but) they are the least resourced (and) remain on the margins." ~ Nebila Abdulmelik, a pan-Africanist working with FEMNET.

"Disabillities (is) a deeply social phenomenon." ~ Vandana Chaudhry, City University of New York.
"It's different when someone refers to me as an 'old woman' than when they say 'elderly woman'.  (Older adults and others) who have been and are traditionally excluded must be intentionally listened to and brought into the Circle for All." ~ Marta Benavides, GCAP co-chair, founder of Siglo XXIII and FTF activist.  
Marta highlights the issue of ageing with an intergenerational approach within the practice of a culture of peace.
"Everyday people are discriminated against because of the 'perceived identity' of being lesbian, gay, queer and transgendered, even if they are not." ~ Cynthia Rothschild, a human rights and sexual rights activist.
"Peace and security is about putting your money where your mouth is.  Currently there's investing in inequality and war, rather than women, equality and peace.  Just a fraction of the US$1.7 trillion arms trade would finance the MDGs, for example global sexual & reproductive health and family planning: US$33 billion, global primary school education: US$4 billion, global access to safe water and sanitation: US$18.7 billion." ~ Abigail Ruane of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).  
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A portion of the above article was previously published in correspondence from the Feminist Task Force.  The Feminist Task Force -- a coalition of women's rights organisations, grassroots and rural women's groups -- promotes gender equality and women's empowerment for poverty eradication and women's economic justice.  While a FTF representative serves on the GCAP Global Council, the FTF is an independent network and strategic partner of GCAP.