Recently, we were extremely busy at the UN as the Commission on the Status of Women, CSW63, took over the United Nations. CSW is the second largest event each year at the UN, behind the General Assembly. There were women and girls from all corners of the earth present. More than 9,000 people attended the two-week commission! Discussions were around every aspect of being a woman in today’s world.  

The theme of CSW63 was Social Protection, Access to Public Services and Sustainable Infrastructure. Participants also asked member states to discuss issues of gender equality, education, health, immigration, and peace, especially as they apply to women and girls. 

Unfortunately, this year CSW63 began in sadness, with the announcement of the tragic plane crash in Ethiopia. On that plane were 21 members of the United Nations family. Secretary General Antonio Guterres opened the first Session with a respectful minute of silence. The flags of the Member States usually waving so beautifully and proudly on First Avenue were not raised on Monday morning, and the flag of the United Nations was at half-staff. It was a solemn start to an important Session. 

Vincentian Family representatives attended many meetings and events during CSW63, I’d like to highlight a couple for you.  

An Irish based organization, GBV.ie, presented a discussion on global gender-based violence. During this conversation we were reminded several times to be sure we’re truly working on behalf of those in need by asking them what it is they need from us, and how can we be of assistance? I heard my Vincentian sisters and brothers in these comments. How can we help if we don’t ask what’s important to those we’re helping? We were reminded by Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative from Ireland, to hold our politicians accountable. Every Member State that has signed on has a responsibility to uphold their end of the bargain, those of us in “Civil Society” have a responsibility to hold their feet to the fire.  She further stated that we are the missing link, as voters and payers of taxes, we must make sure that what have decided will be made into law in our countries. She challenged us to “Shake the cages” of our respective governments. We were also reminded by Dominic McSorley that changing language and culture is a “Long game.” So true.  

Another Side Event of interest was a screening of several documentaries highlighting the power of women during times of war. One such film is Pray the Devil Back to Hell; in it the women of Liberia are heroic! They used their maternal power to make change and insist their voices be heard by those in power. It was very moving indeed.  

As members of the Vincentian family we are quick to introduce ourselves as members of the Vincentian Coalition at the UN. We feel part of our job is to bring our Vincentian charism into the conversation as a reminder of who we are and who we represent. 

Pattie Hughes, SVdP

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