Monday, March 14, 2016

Day 1: Consultation Day

Today, my heart and mind are filled with the power of the collective strength in the auditorium of CSW60's NGO Consultation Day. For six hours, the auditorium rang with the raised voices of a global community coming together to develop and implement substantive action towards gender equality. The theme and foremost principle guiding this year's Commission on the Status of Women focuses on the link between women's empowerment and sustainable development. The idea is simple: placing issues of gender at the center of policy decisions can be a powerful way to simultaneously address other global issues, including those raised in the Sustainable Development Goals.

The day began with a moderated conversation between the UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and Ambassador Antonio de Agular Patriota. I sat in the audience, star struck at the presence of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Just days ago, to celebrate International Women's Day, I had shared a UN Women Facebook post featuring her speaking about it's history, and today, I sat in the same room as her. In this short time, CSW has already given me access to some of the most well known voices in the movement for gender equality. My greatest takeaway from this conversation was the role of civil society in the implementation of global gender equality policy. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka articulated how the priority of CSW was "Implementation, Implementation, Implementation", as it does no good to simply "philosophize justice" (in the words of the inspiring poetic duo, Climbing PoeTree) without actually putting in place the mechanisms to enact it. As local mechanisms of governance, civil societies have the power to role model enactment and set the standards to be met. Civil societies are often best positioned to implement change, and in turn, must be financially and governmentally supported in order achieve this potential.

Following this panel, I was most impacted by the words of the Women of Distinction Awardee, Bandana Rana. Bandana is a women's rights advocate from Nepal and one of the founders of an NGO called "Saathi" which addresses issues of domestic violence in her country. Bandana's story reaffirmed the importance of the process the WomenNC Fellows are going through, taking the voices of the local to the global to amplify the issue, and returning back to the local with tangible solutions to address it. Bandana asked the audience to consider the problem in raising awareness about an issue without having concrete solutions in place to address it, citing an example of helping women leave abusive households without having policy in place to protect them or even the funds to support a place for them to go. This highlights the importance of CSW and it's ability to draft an Agreed Conclusions document that can demand global action, and ultimately develop and enact solutions to address some of the gaps and issues with regard to gender around the world.

These events are just two highlights from Consultation Day, which was filled with additional panel discussions, advocacy training, and inspiring musical and poetic performances. I left the event uplifted with the knowledge that my voice had joined that of a collective movement dedicated to achieving change.  As I go forward into this week, I hope to push myself out of my comfort zone and use this opportunity to learn and become a stronger advocate for gender equality.


  1. Coming out of our comfort zone is the key as human rights activists!!

  2. Maya--great update--certainly fabulous to hear from those driving change and articulating the action plan. At home the Interact organization to me has been a huge step forward for helping women have a safe place to land--our issue today seems to be to find the funding to scale solutions like Interact--tx--Maureen