Rose Dyson Reporting Back from UN CSW 57
Every time I attend the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, I learn new and unexpected things. This year was no exception. The topic, on Violence Against Women, resulted in a wide spectrum of Non Governmental Organizations parallel sessions offered at 4 locations outside the United Nations Building, itself. As a Voice of Women delegate I appreciated the opportunity to participate as a panelist in our own session on “Sexual Violence in the Military”held on the first day. It gave me a chance to speak on the roots of violence and militarism in popular culture. (My remarks have been posted as a blog on the VOW website).
Because I am recovering from a broken ankle and had limited mobility I was relieved that our session was scheduled at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre, a mere 4 short blocks from Grand Central Station. In recent years I have come to CSW sessions via the subway, starting out at Wall Street and Broadway where I stay with my daughter and her family who live in lower Manhattan. The Taipei Centre was, for the first time this year, one of the 4 designated locations for the CSW parallel sessions. Definitely a lucky break for me. I spent the first 2 days there attending sessions on the potential for soap operas to offset violence against women and promote women’s rights, males shared responsibilities, violence against women in the name of God and interpretations of sacred texts. The latter was sponsored by the National Council of Women of Canada. On Friday, March 9th the Taiwanese, themselves, sponsored an excellent session with two keynote speeches. One was on “Empowering Women and Girls in Leadership Initiatives” The other was on “Eliminating All Forms of Violence Against Women: An example being the Closing of the Gender Gap at Birth”. Dr. Shu-Ti Chiou, Director General of the Bureau of Health Promotion, Department of Health, Taiwan presented research findings on abuse of medical technologies such as amniocenthesis which result in the deliberate abortion of female fetuses by women, usually because they are coerced into the pregnancy elimination by family pressures. Also of great concern is infanticide of baby girls in many Asian communities because of cultural practices that result in male birth preferences.
A panel discussion followed involving best practices. It was moderated by Dr. Alistair Edgar, Executive Director of the Academic Council of the United Nations, based in Waterloo, Ontario at the Baisille Centre. It included participation by Ambassador Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez, from El Salvador, and Professor Michael Platzer, Chair of the Vienna NGO Alliance for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The session was followed by the usual lovely reception always offered at the Centre as a conclusion to the Taiwanese presentations.
A definite highlight for me was an invitation from the Ottawa based Council on the Status of Women to participate in a Roundtable Discussion at the Canada Permanent Mission to the UN on March 6th. The purpose was to discuss Atlantic Canada’s Cybersafe Girl Project. It was chaired by the Honourable Valerie Docherty of Prince Edward Island with Honourable Members Charlene Johnson for Newfoundland and Labrador, Marie-Claude Blais from New Brunswick and Stephanie MacInnis-langley from Nova Scotia also in attendance. The topics for discussion involved ways in which those of us participating could use Cybersafe Girl materials in our regions and areas of work. We were also asked to comment on possible next steps to collectively address online safety for girls in Canada. Have a look at the new website at <cybersafegirl.ca>
The following Monday, at a session billed as “Media and Violence Against Women”, I was able to tell the assembled women about the website – after stepping into the breech to help facilitate the session, given that the original organizers did not show up. The designated room at the Church Center for the United Nations was packed with women clearly very interested in the topic.
I attended several more sessions at the Church Center before the end of the second week. One was sponsored by the American Psychological Association on Prevention of Violence Against Women. I appreciated the reference to the role of media and how, both stereotypical images in advertising and social media put young girls – indeed all women – in harm’s way. In another session, interesting research findings were presented on the topic of domestic and sexual violence. Comparisons were drawn between marital status and more casual domestic arrangements with indications that, on the whole, families with a mother and a father who are married offer the highest rate of security for both women and children. The last session I attended was sponsored by Lawyers Without Borders. It was interactive and gave all of us present a chance to participate in the development of strategies to ensure appropriate law enforcement and police protection for victims of rape, sexual harassment and abuse.
There is no doubt that the CSW brings together some very able, talented and dedicated women. It was a privilege to connect with them. Thanks to Janis Alton, our team leader for making it possible for yet another time!