For CSW 62 theme, ‘Challenges and Opportunities in achieving gender equality and empowerment of rural women and girls’ meant that it was important that the Resource Center for Women and Girls be part of this space being that rural girls and rural-urban girls are the priority and focus target group of our work.
Prior to the CSW, women’s organizations organized, convened and put all efforts and hard work to ensure that the voices of the very people the theme targeted were represented in the CSW space and that no one would be left behind and to achieve this, was to ensure that women and girls living in rural areas attended the CSW. This is because they are best placed to articulate their issues drawing from their own lived realities.
However, the outcome of this effort was not positive as there were very many cases of young women and girls from rural areas whose visas were denied, on the grounds that they were unmarried, had no previous travel experience, their age, employment status, etc. This was just another one of the many barriers that continue to inhibit the full realization of the rights and empowerment of women and girls.
As a young woman who lives in the rural area in Eastern Kenya and works with Resource Center for Women and Girls in Machakos, I was among the few who got a visa and was lucky to have had the chance to travel to New York for the CSW. I looked forward to connecting with other young women and learn about their contribution to the empowerment of rural girls and women and the women’s movement in their countries. I attended several meetings, side events and parallel meetings. In every session I was in, some questions and reflections kept recurring in my mind, ‘how will my presence and participation in these spaces change the life of the rural girls in Machakos?’ How do we ensure the conversations in the meetings, caucuses, side events, negotiations, etc. make sense to that one girl back in Machakos, walking to school more than 5km every morning or missing school because she lacks sanitary towels and is afraid of the embarrassment associated with menstruating?’. Are the groups we represent in global spaces aware that those spaces exist? How do we increase their participation in those spaces?’ Why is it that some organizations always have the same people in the global spaces? What changes have they brought to the communities they serve by attending these spaces for more than 10 years?
These questions among others need answers, NOW! In forums like the CSW, you find characters, tribes, countries, etc. from different continents are represented. It is a very colorful and beautiful dynamic to be part of. Women from distinct walks of life coming together with one agenda: WOMEN! This reminded me of the Mentoring and Empowerment retreats of the Resource Center for Women and Girls, behind our bright pink gate you can’t miss in Machakos. There’s always excitement, great vibes, bonding and the manifestation of sisterhood when women of diverse cultures, tribes, race, etc. congregate in the same spaces. The energies are fiery and feisty!
The trading of business cards at the CSW, that sometimes accumulate dust in our offices, the powerful exchange of information, the laughter, the tears, the matches, the sisterhood and the solidarity. All these things together are what make CSW what it is. So, what makes the CSW what it’s not? In my opinion, it is the government delegations who use tax payer’s money to travel to New York, attend the opening sessions and go for shopping sprees. It is these delegates who make a fuss because they do not have a D badge (Delegates badge which allows access to closed meetings and VIP entrance free from security search) yet they never attend the sessions and discussions critical to the development of their countries. It is the lack of or minimal representation of the people who should be present the most. It is the lack of financing for women and girls’ organisations to attend spaces where they build capacity, network, learn and grow.
All things considered, the CSW is a platform I think that every young woman should attend at least once in their career because one is exposed to an array of good ideas, best practices, re-energized and most of all a pool of mentors, at least I know I did.
Article by Ivy Nyawira
Alumni and Team Member