“Our hearts are hurting for the pain we’ve gone through, are going through, and might still go through if we keep gathering and talking with no results to show for.”
Leina | Cameroon
It’s been 20 years since thousands of activists worldwide gathered in Beijing to brainstorm solutions to gender equality and the empowerment of women in all parts of the world. This week kicks off CSW 59/Beijing+20, when representatives of member states, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited NGOs will stream into New York City to track the progress and limitations of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This landmark event hasprovokedgreat strides in the advancement of women's rights, but a lot remains to be realized.
We can hardly talk of gender equality without thinking of women in the most remote parts of the world who are often marginalized from both local and global dialogues on issues that pertain to their wellbeing. These womenare still under the yoke of obnoxious traditional beliefs that permit them to be treated as sub-humans. If the UN is to achieve their goal of gender equality, there must be a platform for the voices of these women to be highlighted.
I have attended CSW forthe last 2 years, and my experience has permitted me to come to the conclusion that grassroots women strongly need a platform to make their voices heard.
Every year, I listen to women speak during various sessions expressing an outpouring of sorrow, anger, pain, and frustration. They recount stories of rape, genital mutilation, property grabbing, battering, menstrual seclusion, sex slavery, ritual rape of virgin brides, bride price, honor killing, violence in pregnancy, early and forced marriages… the list goes on. These are the stories that make me cry. Still, many women keep hopes high for a bettertomorrow.
From my observations, there are a lot more women participating in the side events that circle CSW than in the event itself. The side events are activities organized outside the formal program, and are largely run by NGOs.It would be beneficial if part of the evaluation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action included giving grassroots women the chance to share their ordeals—and solutions—with government officials.
As it stands now, women are discouraged.
''We are wasting our time here," says 2013 CSW-participant V Adebayo from Nigeria. “I am telling you, this thing has become a form of entertainment where we come year in year out and pour out our stories, solutions, and tears then go back home to our same old struggles.”
If we are to gather, we are to gather for a purpose.This year, as I prepare to speak on panels at CSW, I hope to see more support and follow up on the part of the UN with regards to the issues women leaders will be raising. Women know what to do. We just lack the necessary exposure and support to keep our engines rolling.
I think of World Pulse and the thunderous effects of grassroots women’s voices echoing from all parts of the globe. I tell those at CSW that on World Pulse, we discuss solutions. We, as grassroots women, are natural leaders. The tides might get higher and our scourges more intense, but we are too aware of the physical and spiritual energy that abounds when women gather.
I humbly suggest that the UN opens its doors more and more for grassroots women to speak to government delegates and international representatives so that our solutions can be put into practice.