Commission on the Status of Women Parallel NGO Events

Posted on March 26, 2014, by Rajina Shrestha, Women LEAD

The UN Women’s 58th Commission on the Status of Women started March 10, and thanks to the Global Fund for Women, I was able to attend the parallel NGO events held at the same time. I flew to New York (for the first time!) from my university in India and met up with Women LEAD's wonderful co-founder, Claire Charamnac, and sweet Dipeeka Bastola, another Women LEAD participant and my co-intern in 2011.

During the two-week stretch, the NGO events are mostly panel discussions with amazing women and their organizations around the world talking about a specific issue. Some are documentary screenings and some are the NGO Regional Caucuses discussing what is happening inside in the main CSW events.

The priority theme of this year’s CSW was the challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, while the the review theme was looked at the access of women and girls to education, training, science and technology. The side events that we attended provided opportunities for Member States, UN entities and NGOs to discuss themes of the Commission and  other critical gender equality issues.

Among the panels we attended, a few really left me astonished and many times, inspired. After all, it is not every day you hear sensitive autobiographical stories from women who have faced various kinds of abuse or discrimination and how they overcame it.


Rajina Shrestha

It was also interesting to compare the statistics between various participating countries and Nepal. Nepal has 8 percent of girls who graduate high school (12th grade). Pakistan has less than 25 percent literate women (here, the speaker noted, literate meant someone who could read and write their name on paper) and less than 15 percent attending high school. Four percent of girls in Nigeria finish secondary school. In terms of violence against women, international statistics show one in three women face violence in her lifetime. In East Congo, it was specifically mentioned that two out of three women face sexual abuse.

What I loved the most about the conference was the presentations of all the things that need to be made right in the world and the way the process worked. Researchers provided an alarming fact about the status of the problem with their statistics and other observations, then people working to address the issues said what measures have been taken, what has worked and what has not. Policymakers and activists work together with government to change what is wrong.

Then there was the introduction of topics I had never thought about, like how women’s rights and even human rights can be specific to religion and culture. Another was how LGBTI as a minority group never gets the same support as women’s rights do and how curriculum development plays a vital role in how we are shaping the future generation. Others included how climate change is also a women’s issue and how there are so many things in the world that are still legal but ethically wrong as well as the reverse -- illegal but morally right.

Finally, there was my favorite panel – what I always preach to my friends and cousins: pink is the new blue and blue is the new pink! We need no one to tell us what color to choose!

Rajina Shrestha is a 2010 Women LEAD participant and former intern. Women LEAD is the first and only leadership development organization for young women, led by young women, in Kathmandu, Nepal. Connect with Women LEAD on Facebook and Twitter.