Highlights from the 55th CSW
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In February 2011, a WAGGGS delegation of eight young women represented the voice of girls and young women worldwide at the United Nations 55th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
Global forums such as the CSW offer WAGGGS the opportunity to continue advocating for the rights of girls and young women. We ensure that young women are seen, heard and have an impact in these global decision-making forums. They are also important spaces for young women to build their own confidence and skills as leaders, advocates and agents of change.
"Attending the UN CSW with WAGGGS taught me how my voice can be heard and matters at the global scale. I now understand more fully the importance of WAGGGS as an advocate for girl’s and women’s rights. I look forward to making a change and bring this knowledge back to the Girl Guides in Canada." Rachel, Canada
The delegation was a resounding success, with the young women running side events on non-formal education and ending violence against girls, addressing global leaders in the UN plenary, as well as generally raising the profile of WAGGGS throughout the event.
Here are some of the highlights:
At the introductory sessions for girls and young women, our delegation facilitated some of the sessions and interacted with Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet. Pippa Gardner, from the UK, was particularly excited to speak with Leymah Gbowee, who spoke at the Young Women’s World Forum in October 2010 and inspired Pippa to set up a project on gender equality in the UK.
|I found it was really amazing and emotional to be able to talk to Leymah Gbowee again because she offered me so much inspiration in the past and speaking to her I got encouragement to keep going in the future." Pippa, UK|
WAGGGS co-ordinated the Young Women’s Caucus with our partners at World YWCA. The Young Women's Caucus served as a series of working group meetings that focused on policy discussion, advocacy action and networking with decision-makers. The Mentoring Caucus gave the delegates opportunities for capacity-building, general information exchange, mutual empowerment and intergenerational dialogue. One of our delegates, Nefeli, was at the CSW for a second time and helped with the facilitation of this group which she describes as a personal highlight:
"Coming to the CSW a second time was different because I knew already what to expect and I was able to co-facilitate the Young Women’s Caucus which was a personal highlight. I was able to promote WAGGGS and all the great work they are doing to end violence against women. I was very impressed to witness how WAGGGS is networking and influencing the agenda and negotiations and making young women’s voices heard not only in the practical every day work with Girl Guides and Girl Scouts but also on the policy level." Nefeli, Greece
Most of our delegation had the opportunity to meet with their national representatives at the CSW and present them with our key messages on ending violence and the importance of non-formal education. Several of our messages were included in the outcome documents and we successfully lobbied for the inclusion of non-formal education in those outcome documents. We were the only organization working to ensure that this message was included.
|I believe that we have made an impact and what I was impressed that you could connect to all these influential people on an equal basis and they listen to us and I felt respected by decision-makers, our voice was appreciated and recognised. It really does matter that we speak out for all our members. It was great to hear how many of the Nordic countries were recognising that Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting is a great Movement." Mia, Denmark|
Three different statements co-authored by WAGGGS were read out in the main conference, this was another opportunity to present out messages directly to the negotiators. One of these was read out by Mia, the delegate from Denmark.
We worked with our partners Soroptimist International (SI) and World YWCA to present a session on ‘Uniting against violence; a girl centred approach’. The session promoted the vital role of young women in preventing violence as community leaders and advocates. It also highlighted the different types of violence that girls and young women face across the world. Several of our delegates presented at this event and we worked with YWCA and SI to write a statement on this important topic.
|We are taking action today to put an end to violence, one of the issues that most affects us as girls and young women. We know that together we can make the world a safer place for everyone. As girls and young women, you may call us the leaders of tomorrow, but we are also the leaders of today.” Nefeli, Greece|
Delegates attended numerous side events on different topics throughout the week and had the opportunity to address panellists and ask questions about the issues they were concerned about. At the UNAIDS event delegates directed questions at Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, about the importance of non-formal education. In his response he stated that peer education is the key to raising awareness among young people.
And the work does not stop now the CSW is over.
As with all our delegations at global events, a major outcome is the skills, contacts and inspiration that the delegates take home. WAGGGS works with them to build action plans for their return home, to bring the benefits of their experiences to their Member Organizations, their communities and to other girls and young women. Already we are seeing the results of their experiences:
|For me the CSW opened the door of my dreams, of everything I dreamt to do like for example meeting Michelle Bachelet and to be present at a international conference. The experience gives me more motivation and information and ideas how to run our ending violence project that we run in Rwanda this March. Before I came I wasn’t aware that I speak on behalf of 10 million girls. Now everywhere I go I know I am the voice of 10 million girls and will use this voice to speak out to end violence.” Carine, Rwanda|
What happened next?
Before attending the CSW, Pippa, UK, had created a project on promoting gender equality – Speak Out, Reach Out, Camp Out. The CSW gave her inspiration and ideas for ways to grow her project back home. Since returning she has started a blog about female role models, spoken out about the project at the Young Women's World Forum 2011 and even spent a week in rural Kenya researching gender equality. She has further ideas for developing the project so watch this space for further updates!
Rachel, Canada, got together with a group of friends – boys and girls – on International Women’s Day and they all wore eye-catching t-shirts with the slogan: ‘This is what a feminist looks like!’ to promote the message that feminists are ‘men and women with important goals’. She has also hosted a film screening and discussion during International Women’s Week, and led an on-campus campaign for the continuation of a local Status of Women Committee.
Carine, Rwanda, has been working with her national Association to implement a campaign on ending violence against women. She is also currently working an her ambition to set up anti-violence clubs in secondary schools.
María Laura, Costa Rica, has been speaking about her experience at the CSW and writing articles about it for the casalanz school newspaper about how ‘the experience at the CSW changed my life’
Mia, Denmark, has been confirmed as the Danish youth representative in the Nordic Committee for Children and Young People (NORDBUK), the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Advisory and Co-ordinating body for matters relating to children and young people.
"This experience showed that if we focus on our goal and fight for our dreams we can achieve anything." María Laura, Costa Rica
"The CSW was a special experience where I continued to develop many of my skills and learned from a wide variety of other young women. I feel very empowered and motivated to go home and carry on the work we have begun such as engaging in campaigns, projects and education on ending violence" Fiona, New Zealand
Keep watching the WAGGGS website for more updates on the delegates!