CSW63 Townhall Meeting reveals that gender inequality affects even the event itself

Jayde Frank, Curtin University

The Townhall Meeting of Civil Society and the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, at the 63rd UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), was perhaps one of the most interesting melting pots of activism and culture I have ever experienced; the pinnacle of inclusivity, respect and tolerance. It is a place that welcomes people from all over the world, regardless of their gender, orientation, education, ethnicity or religion; inviting them to share the issues which face the women and girls of their native countries.

Some delegates are here to represent and lobby for the rights of others such as the women who stood up for the Qatari women who have not been able to see their Saudi Arabian and Bahraini husbands for over three years due to blockade. Other delegates are here to stand up for the rights for themselves and the women in their communities, including the African women who challenged the UN to do more about human trafficking, focusing on the importance of giving women financial and economic power; “women sitting at the table is one of the most important things if we are going to fight”. Despite this statement, and the incredible efforts of the UN to give women a voice to challenge human rights violations when they see them, it is obvious that there is still much more to be done.

Many women every year have their visas into the USA for UNCSW denied, other are given visas only to be refused entry into the country at the airport. Most of these women are from developing countries; women whose livelihoods and hope for freedom and equality depends on their attendance at events like UNCSW where they can directly lobby to the highest UN executives for assistance in creating change. The UN’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded to this challenge, and responds to all other resistance received stating, “power is not given, power is taken – that’s why we need to push back against the push backs”.

The challenges that some women face in trying to attend UNCSW has sparked much discussion over the accessibility of the Commission which, ironically, whilst aiming to capture the voices of all women is held in locations that are financially and politically inaccessible to the women whom inequality effects most severely in the world. Hence, it could be argued that in reality an event which is supposed to give agency to all women to improve their status, actually may be adding to the inequality that the poorest and most vulnerable women experience with regards to gender equity. This is something that will continue to be a challenge in the future, as high level international organisations meet in an aim to create enduring, intergenerational global change; an issue which could possibly be tackled through the use of technological solutions to bring negotiations at UNCSW into the greater public’s view.

 

Al Gore inspires young future leaders at COP24

My attendance at COP24 has opened my eyes to the sheer number of people from diverse backgrounds not only concerned about climate change and its impacts, but who are actively seeking solutions to this global issue. The biggest highlight of my participation was attending a side-event led by Al Gore, in large part due to his ability to communicate in such a meaningful and emotional way to the diverse crowd of people gathered together in freezing Poland.

Gore pleaded with the full theatre to observe and understand the current impacts of climate change and to appreciate how much worse they will soon become. Each example he presented - in high definition imagery or video footage - highlighted the environmental and anthropogenic suffering currently occurring around the globe. The urgency in his voice was tangible as he described example after example of current climate impacts, including increasing death tolls from extreme weather events throughout the USA and mass migration by climate refugees seeking safer lifestyles. Gore also described the increasing loss of arable land around the world that will eventually lead to global food shortages.

Gore is a leader and public figurehead of the climate change movement around the world and his speech was especially inspiring to my own personal development. Gore was able to communicate in a way that everyone understood and could relate to, by using specific examples that impact our personal context. He did this with a passion that emphasised how severe the situation truly is.

Gore finished by saying “If anyone doubts that we as human beings are incapable of rising to this moment, think back to all of the struggles we’ve had in previous history, and how often the odds were against those who chose to do the right thing and ultimately prevailed. If anyone doubts that we as human beings have the political will to make the right choice, please remember that political will itself is a renewable resource.”

By: Joel Wynhorst, Curtin University Scholar

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