With the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting girls and women, we need their full and effective participation in public life more than ever. We cannot afford to have it otherwise.
That is my biggest takeaway from my involvement in the 65th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) held between the 15th and 26th of March 2021 where I represented the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts - alongside 14 other WAGGGS youth delegates.
CSW is the main global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. During its annual two-week session, representatives of UN Member States, civil society organizations and UN entities gather at the UN Headquarters in New York, and agree on further actions to accelerate progress towards gender equality and the realisation of women’s rights.
Due to the global pandemic, CSW65 took place online with its priority theme set as women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, the elimination of violence for achieving gender equality, and the empowerment of all women and girls.
Our role was to ensure that girls’ and young women's voices were heard by world leaders; and that they are, therefore, not left behind.
One of the ways we did this was by influencing our country’s Permanent Representatives to the United Nations by arranging meetings to discuss our thoughts on the ‘Zero Draft’. This is the draft policy document containing the analysis of the priority theme and a set of concrete recommendations for governments, intergovernmental bodies, and civil society actors to implement at an international, national, regional and local level.
I successfully secured a meeting with the Philippine Permanent Representative, H.E. Enrique A. Manalo, together with Kathleen, a fellow member of our youth delegation to CSW. We discussed our responses to the Zero Draft and made suggestions to ensure that its recommendations would address the underlying causes of gender inequality.
We are proud and happy that our responses to the ‘Zero Draft’ were acknowledged by our representatives and that we were aligned with the inputs of the UN Permanent Mission of the Philippines and Philippine Commission on Women. I consider it as a big step in directly voicing out what girls and women in my country need!
Another important part of our advocacy work as delegates was working on WAGGGS’ Reaction Statement to the Zero Draft. It was exhausting reading a 40-page document over and over again to ensure it encompasses all of the issues affecting girls and women but it was hugely fulfilling as well. I now finally fully understand the famous quote from the Filipino movie about law called Bar Boys, “Life, peace, and hope are at stake in every law and every article that we read and not read".
Involving girls in conversations
Another unparalleled experience from CSW was moderating the WAGGGS and Dove Self-Esteem Project’s CSW event titled, “#InvisibleBarriers: Improving Girls’ Self-Esteem to Inspire New Generations of Leaders and Changemakers.”
The discussion centred on the unrecognised barriers that low self-esteem and body confidence play in holding girls and young women back from taking up important life opportunities and engaging on issues that concern them.
“It’s incredible how much strength girls have at a young age but at about age 6, you see their confidence reduce. We need to resist this,” emphasized our panellist, Honourable Maryam Monsef, Canada’s Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development.
It was such an amazing conversation and it made me hopeful that in the future, conversations like this would reach more people as ultimately, it’s dialogue that changes the world.
Learning about world politics
Being part of the WAGGGS youth delegation to CSW65 gave me a much better grasp on why it is both urgent and important to tackle and achieve gender equality — with girls!
I learned a lot about the processes of negotiation and decision-making and it inspired me to work harder so someday, I can be a world leader who makes sure that ALL girls and ALL women, no matter where they come from, are represented and included in every single policy document affecting their lives.
CSW also made me witness how incredible girls’ ideas and inputs are, especially our own Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. They have such powerful voices and if the people in power would better listen to and include them, they could make all the difference in helping build more inclusive and gender-equal communities.
Indeed, the moment we listen to girls and let them have a ‘say’ in these conversations is the moment we will really start to move forward.
About the author Mariane Dorothy Rosario
GIRL SCOUT LEADER, U-REPORT GLOBAL AMBASSADOR, TOGETHER WE RISE ADVOCATE AGAINST GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE, AND YOUTH REPRESENTATIVE ON THE CENTRAL BOARD OF THE GIRL SCOUTS OF THE PHILIPPINES
Mariane Dorothy Rosario is an 18 year-old Girl Scout and national Advocacy Champion for the WAGGGS Stop The Violence (STV) campaign. She is actively working on various advocacy initiatives specific to online abuse and harassment and violence against women and girls (VAWG).
She leads and delivers Girl Scouting programs for girls in her country and is experienced public speaker who has delivered speeches on issues surrounding gender equality and women's empowerment in regional, national, and international spaces.
Currently, she is an Advocacy Champion and U-Report Global Ambassador with WAGGGS, the National Girl Leader and Girl Representative of the Central Luzon Region to the Central Board of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) ; and a Girls Get Equal Advocate at Plan International. In 2020, she represented the Philippines in WAGGGS' girl-led global panel on VAWG and led a localized campaign focused on ending prostitution and sex trafficking in the Central Luzon Region, spearheading the Girl Scouts of the Philippines first-ever 18-day Campaign to End Violence Against Women. She also represented the Philippines in Plan International’s Girls Get Equal 'Listening Sessions' in partnership with Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.