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Despite the excitement and reunions, strategies and plans, more and more women this year have not been able to attend CSW 60.

It is time to have a conversation about how difficult it is for women to participate in international forums like the UN CSW these days and how essential it is for those who do come share the information and work to implement recommendations from CSW when they get back to their home countries.

Many women have reported that they simply cannot come this year due to regressive policies targeting women’s rights organisations at the national level and international level resulting in reduced funding of the work we do to fight for gender equality. It is a real shame and it is deeply political. The attack on gender equality is getting stronger. There is a clear shrinking of democratic space at this level, the regional level and at the national level. Political engagement with processes are being deliberately curtailed.

Over the past years we have seen women’s participation being limited in spaces where member states decide policies that affect our lives. We have been shoved into small rooms viewing deliberations from screens and we have been excluded from engaging with the outcomes document as was formally done. The more than 6000 women who come to this forum from every corner of the world will mainly meet in spaces outside of the UN to share information and analysis and to learn from each other. Donors have curtailed participation at the global level further reducing participation.

Once effective regional organisations who represent many grass roots organisations in such forums are struggling to maintain presence in international and regional forum due to squeezing of space and restrictive engagement processes imposed by the UN and ESCAP.

For many of us from Australia, we have to self fund to such events, and we are lucky to have 2 civil society representatives in the negotiations with the delegation. We are yet to find out how affective they will be allowed to be in government led negotiations, so the work  they have to do on return is t essential.

This is the first year in 5 years that JERA International has not brought a young woman through the CSW processes and into New York to present at a workshop or parallel session. Without support from family and friends in NY who let us stay in their apartment or give us a room, JERA International Directors would struggle to stay the full 2 weeks, and this is core to our work.

On a positive note, the Asia Pacific NGO Committee on the Status of Women (www.apngocsw.org) has supported a CSW60 Intergovernmental Forum in Fiji, and has supported 5 participants from the Pacific Region to come to New York for CSW 60th.

There is no doubt the  financial crisis is hard hitting and organisations are making the cuts that are needed. We are here at CSW to monitor our states, to evaluate the progress on women’s rights and to ensure that women back home are fully informed of the implications of the Sustainable Development Goals on their lives.

Carole Shaw

12 March 2016

 

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