Sunday 12 March saw the Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College, New York, throw open its doors for the CSW61 NGO Consultation Day. Organised by the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY (NGO CSW/NY), and co-chaired by Soroptimist United Nations Representative New York, Bette Levy, the Committee supports the work of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and UN Women, representing more than 100 member organisations and individuals with a shared concern for the status of women and girls worldwide.
Emceed by Soroptimist UN Rep New York, Bette Levy and Ivy Gabbert, Soka Gakkai International, the Consultation Day opened with the uplifting voices of the United Nations Singers and was followed by wecome messages and conversation with Susan O’Malley, Chair of NGO CSW/NY, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women, HE Ambassador Antonio de Agular Patriota, taking his place in his final year as Chair of CSW, skilfully moderated by Bandana Rana, Saathi, Nepal, Expert Member of CEDAW Committee.
Antonio de Agular Patriota talked of the special role civil society has in pushing forward a new direction, he talked of strengthening multilateralism, building new alliances, upholding rationalism and humanism and placing the individual at the centre of our concerns. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said that CSW was an opportunity to use a common and shared platform, to gain momentum, and sing from the same hymn sheet; not doing anything or giving up was not an option and that we have strong instruments in order to move forward. She spoke of not taking young people for granted, and how they were beginning to see the change and grasp the agenda; reaffirming that there are simply not enough leaders in the world with zero tolerance to gender inequality.
A keynote address was given by Dr Mabel Bianco, this years Woman of Distinction Awardee. A crusader for women’s rights in Latin America and the world, Bianco has implemented policies to save women’s lives, particularly gender-based violence, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, and sexual and reproductive rights and her work has built a stronger feminist movement in Latin America. Bianco’s work is cross-sectional, spanning medicine, public health, policy formation, feminist network building, and UN gender reform.
Rupi Kaur, poet, captivated the audience with her poetry about survival, womanhood, abuse, love, and loss. Rupi recently published a book of poems, milk and honey, and as she read from the pages of her book, the audience responded to her easy, melodic and accessible style, responding with ‘snaps’, cheers and tears to the empowering words dedicated to the challenges of women and girls.
The next event of the day was ‘Women’s Rights and Gender Equity in the Changing World of Work’. Panellists were Radhika Balakrishnan, Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, Julianna Richter, COO Edelman, Elizabeth Tang, General Secretary International Domestic Workers Federation, Esther Maura, Founder and Executive Director GROOTS/Kenya, with the Respondent position taken up by Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General of the UN and Deputy Executive Director UN Women. Kevin Cassidy, ILO Office for the UN moderated the session and questions from the audience were submitted on cards and Twitter. Elizabeth Tang talked of 67 million domestic workers worldwide, and how it is important and the very essence of the Convention, to reaffirm that domestic workers – are workers. Lakshmi Puri talked of existing gender gaps in the world of work and the need to address these gaps – supply and demand.
The afternoon saw five Break Out Groups: Ending All Forms of Forced Labour; Envisioning a Feminist Internet; Creating Equalities of Work; Tackling Gender Violence at Home and in the Workplace and ‘Mitigating Heightened Instabilities: How Climate, Conflict and Migration Impact Work where the Experts included SI President Yvonne Simpson and SI President-Elect Mariet Verhoef-Cohen.
The audience rose to their feet as LeeOlive Tucker, sang Ella Baker and Nina Simone, and amid whispers of a forthcoming blizzard approaching New York, this years Consultation Day successfully set the stage for the 61st Commission on the Status of Women.