The participation of non-governmental organizations in the work of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has been essential in advancing the dialogue on gender equality and the rights of women throughout the world.
During this year’s CSW 62 that took place in New York during Women’s History Month, the Panamerican-Panafrican Association collaborated with two organizations which are working tirelessly to improve the lives of women and young girls in Tanzania and in Nigeria. Shina, Inc, a Maryland and Tanzanian-based organization, and Pleasant Gathering from Nigeria, partnered with the PaPa at CSW 62 to garner broader support for their important work.
Through their grass roots efforts these organizations are committed to addressing the Priority Theme for this CSW 62, “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls,” by serving communities that are very often overlooked by larger organizations.”
During a Side Event at the CSW 62 held at the Armenian Convention Center on 13 March, Pleasant Gathering’s founder and president, Joy Ogbonnaya, gave an impassioned presentation on how her organization has made an impact on the lives of women by providing them with employment skills that permit them to be economically self-sustaining. Several of the young women who were rescued from the sex trade, had been forced to leave their rural communities looking for economic opportunities. A member of the Pleasant Gathering delegation who traveled from South Africa for the CSW, Edeh Somtochukwu Nnaemeka Chidi, stated that the organization provided women with training and trade skills that gave them a sense of hope and a promising future.
Pleasant Gathering serves thousands of rural women with free health care services by garnering the support of volunteer medical staff who provide screenings to those who have no access to medical care. They also have seen very positive results from their Pleasant Gathering reading program in the school system, encouraging young people to read and to stay in school.
A highlight of the Commission on the Status of Women is the Artisan Fair, which allows organizations to raise funds for projects that benefit women by selling traditional handicraft to those attending the conference. Through the sale of handicraft made by women participating in Shina Inc’s micro-grant program, Shina, Inc. (www.shinainc.org) supports not only the women making the crafts, but the other programs that help children orphaned by HIV, the disabled and widows. During the Artisan Fair, the Panamerican-Panafrican Association donated to Shina, Inc. the proceeds from the sale of larimar jewelry made in the Dominican Republic. Lisa McFarren-Polgar, Associated Director of the PaPa, commented, “The CSW makes it clear that we are all connected and we all share the responsibility to help each other across the seas to improve the lives of the most vulnerable.”
Shina has also been a leader in the global fight against violence against women and believes that that struggle cannot be complete unless we address the cultural violence on women by women. Jessica Mushala, President of Shina, stated that the element of violence against women by women has been overlooked in the fight to prevent violence against women and has its source in cultural traditions that must be changed. The influences of culture on violence are generally not addressed but reacted to: older widows on younger widows, older women on young girls (FGM), mother in-law on daughter in-law. Such abuses have rarely been researched and documented with women as the victims and culprits at the same time.
Pleasant Gathering also participated in the Artisan Fair to market the unique clothing made by the new entrepreneurs that the organization has supported. With a donation of a sewing machine made to Pleasant Gathering, young women were trained as seamstresses and able to sustain themselves.
The focus on rural women by this year’s CSW 62 is very timely as for far too long, rural women’s and girls’ rights, livelihoods and wellbeing have been overlooked or insufficiently addressed in laws, policies, budgets and investments. They lack infrastructure and services, decent work and social protection, and are left more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Gender-based violence and harmful practices continue to limit their lives and opportunities.
The Commission on the Status of Women is one of the largest annual gathering of global leaders, NGOs, private sector actors, United Nations partners and activists from around the world focusing on the status of rights and empowerment of all women and girls, everywhere.
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