CSW 2012 blog
This blog contains the thoughts and opinions of our CSW delegates.
Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting gives us the tools to create change – but we need the chance to use them
WAGGGS, I believe, gives girls and young women the spaces to have their voices heard and the advocacy skills to participate fully.
I want to be a social entrepreneur – using technology and exhibitions to achieve gender equality.
|I believe that stereotypes of both men and women are an underlying cause of violence.|
I already have a project that I started as a Girl Guide – ‘Speak Out, Reach Out, Camp Out’ – that aims to inspire, inform and empower young women to take action on the Millennium Development Goals in the UK.
My project utilises a website, blog, and social media to share multimedia amongst peer networks. One element of my project is an exhibition of positive female role models, which seeks to challenge stereotypes by drawing attention to women who have excelled beyond traditional expectations.
Stop the Violence
I believe that stereotypes of both men and women are an underlying cause of violence against women and girls, including in intimate relationships. This is a widespread problem and I suggest non-formal education as one solution.
Our Stop the Violence campaign, called for by our 10 million young members, aims to "start the conversation" about this topic through a joint project with UN Women to create a non-formal, co-educational curriculum.
|CSW is missing an opportunity. I have noticed the limited opportunities given to young women to participate in the decision-making processes.|
I feel this campaign is vital because I have experienced violence in my own personal relationships, and I ask everyone to support our campaign.
Limited opportunities at CSW
I think CSW is missing an opportunity. As a young delegate at the past two sessions I have noticed the limited opportunities given to young women to participate in the decision-making processes at the CSW.
We have a space created by the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that work directly on our interests, and other NGOs are forced to take notice when we speak out at events dominated by older women – but it seems to me that young members of government delegations seem to be few and far between. This needs to change, and we need a universal definition of ‘youth’.
Give young women's opinions the space and respect they deserve
I'm still finding it hard to believe I'm in New York for the United Nations 56th CSW.
When I first read the email that mentioned the CSW, 3 things caught my attention: WAGGGS, New York and the United Nations. And I thought to myself, what an amazing opportunity - to represent not only Girlguiding UK but WAGGGS.
An amazing opportunity
To share my experiences; to have my voice heard; to develop my advocacy skills; to meet girlguides from around the world and, of course, see the famous city that is New York. How could I not want to apply?
|Girl Guiding, as it always does, opened a door I thought closed to me. And here I am today standing in front of you.|
I didn't know who would apply, and I didn't know who they were looking for. Not to think negatively, but in all honesty I didn't think I'd get it. However, Girl Guiding, as it always does, opened a door I thought closed to me. And here I am today standing in front of you.
My experience so far at CSW has been overwhelming; every day presents new challenges and opportunities. I have not experienced a single moment of boredom since I arrived. I have attended numerous side events, went to the UK permanent mission were I got to talk to my Equalities Minister, I have taken part in the girls' participation and young women's caucus.
I have watched my fellow delegates give inspiring speeches about their lives, I had an opportunity to talk to the United Nations Foundation about what it is like to be a girl in my country and had an awesome reception at the Girl Scouts of the USA Head quarters, where I got to spend time with some of the great girls I have met this week.
Give girls a bigger platform
Its good that there is a platform at CSW for girls and young women to have their voices heard and their thoughts considered. However, I personally feel that this space is not big enough.
|As members of the world's female population, our voice should be heard just as loudly as everyone else at CSW.|
Firstly, we do not get enough recognition. We're pushed into the background, we're rarely given the time and space to let our voices be heard. As members of the world's female population, our voice should be heard just as loudly as everyone else at CSW.
Secondly, the girl-only spaces are intruded. All too often words are put in our mouths. Just because we are young, does not mean we do not know what we are talking about. Next time, we ALL need to ensure that the girl-only spaces remain girl-only. That girls are given the time, space and recognition for their opinions.
Don't let girls down
I am here to represent the voices of 10 million girls across 145 countries in WAGGGS and I need to ensure we don't let them down by my voice not being heard. However, despite these frustrations, I can't stress enough how inspiring and valuable it has been to attend the CSW this year. We have had successes, but next year we can strive for more.
Today I challenge the United Nations, I challenge the government negotiators, and I challenge all of us, including myself, to make sure girls voices are not a whisper but a shout!
Access to education is crucial for Malawian girls to prosper
I would like to share with you challenges, experiences, and opportunities me and my fellow peers face in Malawi.
In Malawi – just as in many other countries – we are facing a lot of challenges such as child and forced marriage, early childbearing, sexual gender-based violence, high HIV infection, illiteracy and early school drop outs, inadequate system that protects our rights, orphanhood and with some taking the burden of caring for families affected by HIV/AIDS during school period time.
The opportunity to participate
However, me and my fellow peers enjoy the opportunities to associate with friends and participate in Girl Guiding activities. The country of Malawi offers free primary education to children and has devised a policy that allows girls who dropped out of school to be re-enrolled/re-admitted.
|The people in the urban areas have access to medicine but people in the rural areas do not have access at all.|
Currently, I am involved in a UN joint program that focuses on adolescent girls. Through this program we provide girls with leadership opportunities, a safe space, health services, and access to education.
I take a role of facilitating peer educators to run sessions in their guide units. This has helped me to build up my confidence and to set up my future dreams.
I want to be a pharmacist to make medicine available in hospitals in Malawi – specifically focusing on rural communities. The people in the urban areas have the access to medicine but people in the rural areas do not have access at all.
Improvements in girls' lives to date
There is improved adolescent girls' education attendance. For example, teachers are now reporting reduced absentees and also some girls that dropped out are being enrolled. There is an increase in access to sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS-related information.
|There is increased advocacy and visibility for the needs of adolescent girls.|
For example, girls are being trained as patrol leaders who conduct weekly sessions with their failed girls in their respective schools.
They are also getting information through campaigns and dialogue conducted in their communities. There is also increased development of life skills through training and sessions that they participate in. There is increased adolescent participation and leadership in youth development activities. There is also increased advocacy and visibility for the needs of adolescent girls.
Sending help from abroad
What can girls in the USA do to help girls in Malawi? There is a need for supplies such as sanitary products so young girls can go to school. So a way for US girls to support would be to connect with the Girl Guides of Malawi and form a partnership.
|There is a need for supplies such as sanitary products so young girls can go to school.|
There is also a need for a scholarship fund for young women to remain in school but also to support young women who want to continue on with their education. Young women who want to be taken seriously with their advocacy issues need further education but unfortunately rural girls are not able to afford school fees, so therefore are not able to continue their advocacy work in their professional careers.
Young women must have a role in international politics
My name is Danielle and I am from Ontario, Canada. I am very excited to share my experiences leading up to the CSW, and thus far being at the CSW.
This experience started when I applied to be apart of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts' CSW Delegation. I was in India at the WAGGGS World Centre after I became inspired to apply for this amazing opportunity.
The importance of advocacy
The programme I was completing in India taught me so much about the importance of advocacy, and having girls' voices heard.
I worked with a non-governmental organization (NGO) that partnered with the World Centre. I was able to experience the challenges and successes that NGOs face. I was truly amazed at what a difference one person could make. The organization I worked with was started by one woman, who saw a need and had a caring heart for humanity.
|I knew that what I had experienced and learned could not be put to waste. I wanted to continue my advocacy journey.|
My time in India was an amazing experience in itself. I knew that what I had experienced and learned could not be put to waste. I wanted to continue my advocacy journey, and this was made possible when I was accepted to be part of the WAGGGS CSW delegation.
Since being here at the CSW, I have learned an enormous amount from the UN women, as well as many of the NGO participants.
Creating Canadian partnerships
I was fortunate enough to have a roundtable meeting with the Minister for the Status of Women Canada. This opened my eyes to the idea that women can take a strong and active role in politics and policy-building.
|A roundtable meeting with the Minister for the Status of Women Canada opened my eyes to the idea that women can take a strong and active role in politics and policy-building.|
The minister was engaging, truthful, friendly, and strong. She really cared to listen to me, and exemplified this by committing to me to take my concerns forward and put them on the agenda if they are not already included.
There were three other Canadian representatives at this roundtable, and what blew me away was that each of the issues they each brought forward, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts is in some way working on, or involved in projects related to these issues.
I think this is a perfect example of how sharing resources and creating partnerships is vital. If these three organizations partnered with WAGGGS a stronger voice would be created which could lead to a greater change.
Empowering and involving young women through WAGGGS
This only further validated the work of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world. We are youth-serving organizations for girls, and are tapping into many communities, rural and urban in 145 countries.
|If we, the youth, are expected to be the leaders now and of tomorrow, we need to learn how the government processes work.|
Furthermore, being here participating at the CSW has taught me just how important it is to have young women involved, and being present at events like this. If we, the youth, are expected to be the leaders now and of tomorrow, we need to learn how the government processes work.
For example, we do not want to re-invent the wheel which means we need to learn as much as we can from the women leaders of today, and see what they have already accomplished. If we can have these amazing advocates as mentors not only will we youth learn about the UN, and international government, but we will develop leadership skills and the knowledge to have a voice and be true advocates.
I would like to conclude with a few words from our founder Olave, Lady Baden-Powell: “Doing a 'good turn' may seem a trivial thing to us grown-ups, but a good turn done as a child will grow into service for the community when she grows up.”
We too will serve our communities through political action, education, development and advocacy. It is in our Guiding Spirit.
Economic empowerment helps rural women in Rwanda to overcome cultural obstacles
My name is Pamela from Rwanda and I am representing the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
Rwanda has a population of 9.1million people. Over 85% of the Rwandans live in rural areas and they survive by agricultural production.
The most vulnerable people
The 1994 Tutsi Genocide led to a change in the country’s demographic structure: women today account for about 54% of the Rwandan population, and many households are headed by women and orphans. The most vulnerable rural people are landless people where a girl is at the centre of all concerns.
Let me describe the life of a rural girl in Rwanda. Since her childhood, a girl is taught to perform all domestic tasks. Like their mothers, they grow to become responsible for the care of children, the sick and the elderly, in addition to performing essential social functions within their communities such as raising their little brothers and farming.
So what do the Rwandan government do to spoke the changes for the rural women? There have been improvements in the net enrolment of girls at primary levels. Now, girls and boys have equal opportunities for education.
Obstacles for Rwandan girls
However, statistics of girls in higher education are still low. Few girls are found in scientific or technical education where they could develop better skills to secure better paying jobs - especially those living in rural areas.
|Factors such as adolescent pregnancy, early marriage and girls' greater burden of household labour act as obstacles to girls' schooling.|
In addition, factors such as adolescent pregnancy, early marriage and girls' greater burden of household labour act as obstacles to their schooling. This is not due to lack of information because there are centres in rural villages that provide sexual and reproductive health. It’s due to culture, conservation of old values and religions. So, disparities persist in comparison with the enrolment of boys.
Issues of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence also are high in girls’ lives in rural communities. And the shame of losing their virginity incites them to keep that secret.
Positive changes and Girl Guiding
Rwanda has made many excellent achievements in line with the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women. We can highlight some of them: Reduction of poverty, access to education, eradication of violence against women, access to health, women in decision making.
|Girl Guides have conducted training on girls’ rights and encouraged them to stand up and work so that they can limit violence at home.|
Gender sensitive curricula have been developed and at present stereotypes were remarkably reduced in textbooks. As a result of the implementation of the 1999 inheritance law, girls are inheriting from their parents’ properties. Girls living with disabilities are provided with special services.
We, the Rwandan Girl Guides, have remarkably been engaged in promoting rural girls and women because we have a great membership. Empowering them socially and economically was the first thing to do. Through numerous projects, Girl Guides have conducted trainings on girls’ rights and responsibilities and encouraged them to stand up and work so that they can limit violence at home.
Growing rural business
For instance, in 2011 with Global Fund I was part of a project on improving the socio-economical life of 60 rural women. Through that project, we trained women on the creation of small businesses and how to invest their little income at the bank.
|As a direct result of the Girl Guides' effort, the number of Rwandan women with saving accounts has increased.|
With a small amount we provided them with, they have bought a land where they are cultivating pineapples. Today, they transform those pineapples into juices which they sell across the country. In addition, they started a cooperative in which they make crafts and baskets (agaseke) that they export. You can find them in Macy’s malls in Washington DC.
My fellow Girl Guiding leaders and I taught girls who had not finished school skills such as bakery, tailoring and pork farming. The money they have earned and saved has changed their lives and their families.
As a direct result of the Girl Guides' effort, the number of Rwandan women with saving accounts has increased. The money they make gives women independence to make decisions, to educate their children, and gives them access to the health care services.
The chance to be respected
My mother always says to me that I have to work hard and be independent. This project has given rural women the chance to be respected and not just be someone’s wife.
As an African young leader, I know that our culture is still a barrier to develop rural communities.
|Rural women suffer in Rwanda, but Girl Guides of Rwanda has given them the power, the tools and opportunities to grow.|
Since joining Girl Guides at school, I found that even though I had grown up in a rural community, I have been taught to be committed, stand up and fight for my rights. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in the world. Through the advocacy and leadership skills I learned, I am able to rise up and feel confident.
I have been inspired to study agriculture so I have the knowledge and skills to help the poor rural people of Rwanda be able to make their lives better.
Thai teenagers need help to nurture positive body image
My name is Praewa and I’m from Thailand. I am at the CSW as a youth delegate from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and as part of a Thai government delegation.
It is such an honour for me to have the opportunity to speak out for girls and young women around the world at this side event. I am going to speak from a Thai teenager’s perspective about how the body image in the media affects young people and on how to solve the problem.
I am particularly interested in the topic since I am surrounded by friends who are extremely affected by body image and gender stereotypes portrayed by the media which is now widely accessible to young people.
Teenage plastic surgery on the rise
At university, I am surrounded by friends who have undergone plastic surgery, friends who try to dress, act, and change their bodies to look like Korean pop girl idols, friends who need to go and check at stores every week for the new arrivals and then end up complaining that they have to go on diet to fit into their new clothes.
|Thai society has been extremely affected by pop idols from Korea where plastic surgery is viewed as normal for teenagers.|
Thai society has been extremely affected by pop idols from Korea where plastic surgery is viewed as normal for teenagers and this has made the number of young Thai people below 25 years old doing plastic surgery increase for the last five years. One of my friends who had a nose job said she did not like her nose and she felt unconfident having it on her face. Her parents supported her in doing the plastic surgery and they paid for her.
Consequently, after the last New Year’s Holidays she came to university and only a few people had noticed that something on her face had changed. Others could not notice and she decided not to tell anyone.
Facing the reality
She said she felt much more confident after doing the plastic surgery and loved it when people turned their heads to look at her face. However, she did not face the reality that she was not happy in her skin, and her parents didn’t care about her wellbeing.
|When my friend changed her nose, she did it to make men look at her face. She didn’t care about them seeing her as a complete human being.|
When my friend changed her nose, she did it to make men look at her face. She didn’t care about them seeing her as a complete human being. This leads to men objectifying her as a ‘thing’ that doesn’t have feelings. Due to a lack of respect, this objectification of women leads to violence and injustice.
As a teenager, I think caring about body image is not so wrong, it’s natural, especially for teenagers who are still immature, still growing and are quite vulnerable to media and advertisement.
What can we do to reduce media influence?
So, what can we do to stop Thai teenagers being so affected by the media? The first thing to do is to create confidence in young womens’ bodies and make them discover their real potential, so they can be proud of themselves.
A safe space like the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts is a great place for this to be nurtured. This will make them realize that their true value comes from themselves, their good deeds, and not their appearances. Some Thai teenagers are aware of many famous people who can achieve success without the perfect media-propagated body image. They believe plastic surgery should be used by people who need it for medical treatment.
|It is essential that teenagers are educated to see through media tricks and false advertising so that it can help them to critically assess what they see.|
In addition, it is essential that teenagers are educated to see through media tricks and false advertising so that it can help them to critically assess what they see in the media. Also, teenagers must be guided towards the right and safest way in taking care of their bodies. This is where the parents come in; feeling good about our bodies must start in the family, parents should talk to their children rather than paying for them to have plastic surgery.
Finally, all the above mentioned can’t be achieved by teenagers alone. We also need help from education providers, both formal and non-formal and the adults who provide all the media to young people.