CSW 54: Beijing + 15 celebrations
There were three members of OWN, Europe at the CSW/NGO and CSW 54 meetings in New York earlier this year: Marianne Seger from Germany who was able to stay for both weeks, Andrea Ferenczi from Hungary and Elizabeth Sclater from the UK who were there for the first week only.
Over 8,000 NGOs had registered for the meeting and few of us realised as we made our way to New York, just what a huge organisational challenge that would be for the NGO/CSW Committee and us as participants, as large parts of the UN building was closed for renovation. Sometimes it felt like we were back in Huairou, miles away from the official meeting.
Access to meetings at the UN itself was severely limited and some by ticket only, although the speeches by government delegations in the main plenary were relayed by video link in the adjoining committee room. All this put added pressure on the Church Centre where most of the NGO meetings were held. Rooms were filled to overflowing and it was difficult to concentrate on presentations and participate in debate.
It was a great measure of the resilience and cooperation among the women present that we remained cheerful in adversity, seeking solutions where necessary. However it also made us realise that no matter how much UN rhetoric there is regarding the importance of cooperation with civil society, structural and attitudinal barriers remain firmly entrenched.
Older Age on the Agenda?
For the first time at a NGO/CSW Forum, issues of gender and ageing were acknowledged by speakers on both days as issues that all (government and civil society) needed to address. Concerns of older women were also referenced in the final report of the Forum to the main CSW meeting. I was able to follow this up in the European caucus and at meetings throughout the first week.
There were three NGO sessions specifically on gender and age. Two from the UK (England and Northern Ireland) and the packed NGO/CSW Sub Committee on Older Women (SCOW) meeting, where CEDAW Committee member, Ferdous Ara Begum, updated us on the Committee’s progress in developing the general recommendation on older women.
It was clear from this meeting that there was close co-operation between SCOW and the UN NGO Committee on Ageing. The latter are working towards a convention on older people and will be helped in their cause by the CEDAW General Recommendation.
WHO had an excellent meeting on gender and health. Their life course approach ensured that issues of older women were recognised and addressed in their new strategy.
It is this life course approach which enables the few voices advocating for older women to be heard as we help others to understand that the discrimination experienced throughout our lives has huge impact on women in later life.
(photos: thanks to Ulrike Helwerth, from Natinal Council of German Women's Organization)
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