CSW61 NGO Forum Consultation Day Breakout Group Report

As part of the CSW61 NGO Consultation Day organised by the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY (NGO CSW/NY) on 12 March 2017, attendees broke out for discussions into five groups: Ending All Forms of Forced Labour (Modern-day Slavery, Early Marriage, Trafficking),  Envisioning a Feminist Internet, Creating Equalities of Work (Equal Pay, Upgrading Domestic and Formerly Unpaid Work), Mitigating Heightened Instabilities: How Climate, Conflict and Migration Impact Work and Tackling , and Gender Violence at Home and in the Workplace. Soroptimist delegates divided themselves amongst the groups and each were buzzing with activity, sharing stories and advice.

Ending All Forms of Forced Labour (Modern-day Slavery, Early Marriage, Trafficking)

This group focused on three thematic clusters: Labour Trafficking, Early, Child and Forced Marriages and Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation. The attendees heard the opening statements of Jackie Shapiro, Chairperson, End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism – USA, Laurie Richardson, UN Liaison, The Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas and NGO CSW Vienna, and Adenike Adeyanju Osadolor, African Regional Coordinator, International Federation of Business and Professional Women. The key points emphasized by these speakers were that trafficking is happening everywhere, as well as early marriages, since people bring their customs with them as they migrate and that only by empowering and educating women will these issues be addressed. Following their presentation, the stage was set for a lively discussion in three smaller groups. The break-out groups were assigned the task of suggesting solutions to these problems.

The Labour Trafficking group discussed how culture and lack of opportunities for education and employment made women appear to be less valuable to a family, and therefore more likely to become a victim of child labour. Multiple approaches to this problem were discussed by the group, including the involvement of the business community in the of education of trafficking, strengthening the legal frameworks around labour (and sexual exploitation trafficking), and work with groups such as the International Organization of Migration, Global Compact on Migration, to create opportunities for women to obtain employment and for assistance in addressing a culture of exploitation.

The Early, Child and Forced Marriage group had a vigorous discussion of the linkages between poverty, customs and the lack of understanding of the impact that early marriages can have on a girl or women involved. The key suggestions were to address barriers to ending this custom, especially in faith based and patriarchal societies, to prohibit marriages below the age of 16, educate women so they are seen as an asset to the family, rather than a drain on a family finances, enforce already existing laws and use social media to let girls (and their families) know that early marriages will limit their future earning power and early pregnancies can put the girls health and/or life at risk.

The Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation group suggested a targeted and culturally sensitive approach to the problem. Using this as a starting point, they suggested educating girls and their families about how traffickers work; educate girls about their own rights, self-worth and ability to contribute to the family income – to prevent them from being “sold” by their families; and to enforce laws, especially if borders are being crossed, that are designed to protect those who are trafficked for sexual exploitation. This group also suggested using social media to warn against trafficking and to advise those who are being or who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation of safe spaces where they can seek help. Finally, they suggested that all airline, rail and bus employees receive special training on how to detect trafficking and to begin a global see something/say something campaign against trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Envisioning a Feminist Internet

This exciting break-out group attracted a packed room of eager participants. The expert panel featured Dafne Sabanes Plou, Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Association for Progressive Communications, Jamia Wilson, Executive Director, Women, Action and the Media, and Firuzeh Shokooh Valle, Author, Global Voices. The break-out group decided upon very concrete conclusions:

Recommendation: Online abuse perpetrates cultural dynamics that often lead to violence. Online usage reflects and should mirror what we do in everyday lives.

Action: Protect women from revengeful acts and bullying, monitor violence against women more effectively, provide education through schools, at home, and in the television and film industry on how to use the internet fairly, the need for community and grass-roots solutions to provide integrative social policy against technology related violence.

Recommendation: Integrate a feminist economic approach to the internet, change infrastructure, remove barriers to full access participation on the internet, build and inclusive movement, and mobilise the next generation.

Action: Increase the purchasing power of women, shift economics towards humanity – social responsibility and accountability is good for business, empower women to take on more high level technological roles, which will lead to greater visibility for women, Google to create a women focused algorithm to mirror the female population, greater rigorousness to remove hate speech and content, directly target Facebook, Twitter and other large social media outlets to improve their harassment policies.

Creating Equalities of Work (Equal Pay, Upgrading Domestic and Unpaid Work)

Catherine Bosshart, Main Representative for the UN, International Federation of Business and Professional Women, NGO CSW/Geneva, Elizabeth Tang, General Secretary, International Domestic Workers Federation, and Grace Protos, Regional Administrator, U.S. Department of Labour led the discussion on Creating Equalities of Work. It was agreed there was a need to create an awareness of the current pay gaps, both within companies by publishing average salaries for male and female workers, and within governments, through the creation of awareness campaigns on salary inequality. Civil society can also play a role, by educating more women to be advocates for equal pay. There needs to be an increase in time and resources in studies which highlight the current unequal work system, including the contribution which unpaid work makes towards a countries GDP. Domestic workers work needs to be more visible, with global legislative frameworks and international norms upheld, including regulated hours, time for rest, and health and safety conditions.

The break out groups fed back several suggestions to the panel: the need for more countries to ratify the Convention on Migrant Workers; for a strike to be organised, highlighting the difference in pay between men and women – 79c per $1 – and women to leave work at the time of day they are not being equally paid; more women to be represented in the Unions; ensuring childcare system are affordable, flexible and accessible; and amend the 30 hour limit of full-time work, so women working part time can also receive benefits.

Mitigating Heightened Instabilities: How Climate, Conflict and Migration Impact Work

Yvonne Simpson, Soroptimist International President spoke on behalf of Eva Richter, Poverty Education and community Education (PEACE) Foundation and NGO Committee on Migration who was unable to attend. Yvonne spoke of how even though women migrants form a vulnerable population, we must, however, avoid regarding women as victims, and whilst acknowledging their vulnerability, we must find ways to empower women through careful restructuring to produce gender equality. It is known that women far more than men, send home money in the form of remittances, however this money is often not invested in the most advantageous way. This highlights the need for financial literacy and access to financial markets to manage this money for women.

Kelly Yzique-Zea, Peacebuilding Policy Specialist, Global Network of Women Peacebuilding, shared case studies from Colombia and the Philippines. In Colombia, as part of the peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), women advocated for support to women farmers, including the right to own land (especially rural women), as this would enable them access to economic and political spaces, spaces usually reserved for men or women of higher socioeconomic statuses. Whilst Colombia’s new peace agreement focuses on land repatriation and proposes changes in the rural areas of the country, it does not go far enough. Kelly suggested that to ensure that women have access to land, they must be prioritised as heads of households (as many survivors are left to take care of the home during the conflict); allow flexibility in the context of land tenure; forgive debt and provide women with economic assistance.

In the Philippines, women’s organisations successfully lobbied the peace negotiators
for the government and from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to include a provision that guarantees that part of the income derived from natural resources in the island of Mindanao will be dedicated to gender and development programmes.

Economic uncertainty for women during conflict and post-conflict is not solely applicable to the case of Colombia and the Philippines, but worldwide. Kelly underlined that women need to be incorporated into the workforce in post-conflict settings as agents of change, be involved in all levels of decision-making and be present at the table during discussions with donors and policymakers.

Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, President Women for Water Partnership and President-Elect Soroptimist International, spoke about the evolving issue of water migration; as global climate change, environmental degradation and mismanagement, and conflict threaten the quality and availability of water in the world, more and more people are being forced from their land. When potable water is not readily available, people may ‘commute’ to the nearest fresh lake. Over time this can reach a tipping point, which may resort to longer distances and more permanent migration.

Several UN Resolutions and International Laws cite access to water as a basic human right and one that cannot be used as a political weapon. Lack of water is directly responsible for reduced livelihoods and dignity for both displaced and host populations. For countries which ‘receive’ migrants, increased water demand results in increased sewage generation, and if left untreated, can result in the pollution of more water sources, thereby depriving more people of an increasingly scarce resource.

Following the three speakers, the audience broke into smaller groups to discuss what actions governments could take to mitigate climate change.


Support initiatives mitigating climate change (against the push backs)
Paris benchmarks become policies (Green Climate Fund)
Encourage policies for environmentally sustainable energy – investment therein
Emphasize moral and ethical dimensions
Policies against re-appropriation of waterways and water diversions (economic advantages; indigenous rights)
Re-categorisation of migration and refugee status (dis-aggregation of environmental and economic statistics)


Publicise research done
Recognise work of underdeveloped countries
Higher opportunities for women in sustainable agriculture (resiliency) in rural areas – (women as agents of change)
Develop infrastructure for rural economy (impacts national development policies)
Refugee camps host a larger proportion of women who are vulnerable to sexual exploitations, education and assistance available
Statement against corporate exploitation/military land grabbing – colluding with national governments
Recognise the important intersection between education and language, recognising education qualifications from different countries
Establishment of state supported language and cultural literacy, community mentoring programmes.


Women investing in ethical companies, educated on investment options – divestment fossil fuels
Support moral economies
Devise initiatives to incentivise developing countries into green development


Need to collect standardised data of both men and women and fully understand the reason behind their migration.

Tackling Gender Violence at Home and in the Workplace

Raphael Crowe, Senior Gender Specialist, International Labour Organisation (ILO), described what his organization is currently doing to ensure social protections and international labour standards are upheld:

  • ILO working on an international labour standards on violence against women and men; 2018 will have first reading on what is expected to be an international convention on violence in the workplace including the impact of domestic violence on the workplace. This may include, collective bargaining agreements to include domestic violence as a workplace issue, and include having leave provisions due to domestic violence.
  • Impact of violence against women and the ability of women to be economically empowered
  • Workplace can be a source of information and supportive environment and opportunity for shelter and protection
  • ILO working with an international network on the costs and impacts of violence against women, what initiatives governments and employers are doing
  • This is a productivity issue that has multi-million-dollar cost to employers as well as human rights violation

Dilshad Dayani, Founder, World Women Global Council, spoke of a research model on how US immigrant communities from South Asia address social and cultural norms and how domestic violence intersects. There are significant factors which lead South Asian immigrant women in the US not to report cases of domestic violence – lack of legal access, fear of deportation; lack of information; language challenges. Her organisation is looking at creating a social media portal on Facebook for sharing good practices that are culturally aligned. Dilshad reiterated the importance of a two-pronged approach, working with both women and men.

Feedback from the small group discussions:

  1. We must continue to call for the right to live free of violence in all settings. This includes homes, schools, communities and workplaces.
  2. We must continue to expand the public discourse on violence against women – raising awareness that violence against women is a crime and a human rights violation. Impunity for perpetrators must end and political leaders, police and justice must be held account.
  3. There are many effective community-based responses that have potential for scale up.
  4. The CSW outcome document should have a recommendation on the intersection of violence and economic empowerment. The CSW agreed conclusions should feed into the forthcoming ILO Convention on violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work.
  5. Need to change societal norms and recognize that we need safe places including workplaces to address abuse. Need to make breakthroughs for workplaces to become safe places; how can the world of work contribute to ending violence against women.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to receive the Soroptimist International Newsletter by email.