Sunday, March 19, 2017
The day began in the main assembly room on the UN building, where the UN Secretary-General and his senior staff meet with the NGO Committee on the Status of Women. He began with a few opening remarks then took questions from the audience full of feminist advocates, myself and the other fellows among them. The first statement came from a woman who expressed her support for the current Secretary-General, despite the fact that before the NGO CSW had lobbied for a woman candidate. Overall, Antonio Guterres answered the questions in a thoughtful, supportive, if not always substantial manner. From what I understand from my conversation with Dr. Soon-Young Yoon, this is the first event of its kind and it sets a very important precedent for the future of the relationship between the UN and the NGO CSW.
The last panel I attended at the NGO CSW was a panel hosted by the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) that featured the Chilean Minister of Women and Gender Equality as well as domestic workers from around the world. A 9 year member of the IDWF shared her experience as a migrant domestic worker in Hong Kong, working long hours for low pay. Today, the demand for paid care work is growing because of an aging population, reductions in government services, geographically dispersed families, and the growth in the proportion of women working outside the home. Of course, the economic liberation of women who enter the labor market is only possible because of the work of domestic and child care workers, who are often exploited by informal work arrangements and a lack of governmental protections. Care workers and other working women are often pitted against each other by those who claim that low-paying domestic jobs are the price of women's equality, but the IDWF holds that you cannot claim to achieve equality while care workers are exploited. A possible solution is government provision or subsidy of these crucial services.
It was good to end the conference with the most impactful panel I had attended all week. The whole experience was inspiring and encouraging. While I have not learned much about the challenges women face that I hadn't known before, I did learn a lot about the amazing efforts of people around the globe fighting for equality and human rights.