Carole Shaw
APWW / JERA International
23 February 2011

What a day…

Today started wonderfully….  Cold as ice outside,  and a warm Fijian welcome inside from Tara Chetty who was presenting in the Pacific Women’s Watch “Claiming Space for Pacific Women in the International Arena” workshop.  The workshop was well attended by women from all around the world.  The aim of the interactive workshop was to develop strategies for supporting and promoting opportunities for pacific women in political representation internationally.  Roslyn Noonan, Chair of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, both acknowledged and recognized the prominent role of many Pacific women who have challenged governments and former colonial leaders in the struggle for equality and peace.  Of particular note was her acknowledgement of recent Fiji activists Imrana Jalal and Shamima Ali who have continuously worked to improve the situation for women in their country.  She spoke of the 2004 vision for the region which resulted in the Pacific Plan in 2005 and ways to strengthen this through use of a human rights framework.  Following Roslyn was Emmy Galama from the Hairou Commission and permanent representative to UN Habitat, and Tara Chetty.  Tara was standing in for Lisa Lahari Williams (Pacific WAVE), who, due to late receipt of  funding  was literally winging her way on a flight to New York to attend the meeting. Tara talked about her experiences with the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) and experiences of the consequences of lack of representation at the international level.  She also acknowledged the long history of pacific women’s activism.   And noted the particular challenges at the broader global leadership level where pacific women are struggling to be recognized as a specific area with specific challenges.  She noted that obviously, in some Pacific nations, local struggles impact greatly on national and global leadership.  This is when membership of regional and other feminist networks can support in getting some of the messages out to support particular issues.  It was reiterated that finding space, and promoting voice of women in a specific parts of the world has multiple challenges and a strategic approach is often needed.

This was the particular focus from Charlotte Bunch from the CGWL, the fourth speaker, who reiterated that with the setting up of the UN Women, it was time to be strategic and mobilize around what the UN can actually do.   Similar to the 90’s when women mobilized and focused around the issues of violence against women, resulting in the beginnings of a global framework for addressing violence, and the production of many countries National Action Plans to eliminate violence against women.  The UN cannot eliminate violence against women, but it can provide frameworks and strategies to address this issue. The challenge was put to the workshop participants to being the discussion of concrete ways to put forward strategies to UN Women  include the participation of Pacific women.

Following on from this workshop, for me, it was admin time….   it was a time to continue to support women and men who needed accreditation to attend the meeting.   AS I was approached from several agencies to support attendance of their members who had only just received their funding from UN Women.  For many women around the region, attending CSW 55th session, funding was not agreed until the week before travel.  For some, especially those who need to apply for visas, this can mean the difference between travelling and not travelling.   Funding to attend CSW for many means the opportunity to speak out about the situation in their own countries, gaining visas to attend a meeting in the USA can take time and money.  The challenges of getting visas to the USA in a short timeframe are many.  For some, they need to travel many miles to get to the embassy to gain visas… timely funding and planning is key to effective attendance at CSW.

In the afternoon, Australia launched it’s National Plan to reduce violence against women and their children – including the first 3 year action plan.  This was launched by Minister Kate Ellis at the Australian Mission to the UN, supported by the Minister from Kiribati, UN Women and Elizabeth Broderick, Australian Sex and Age Discrimination Commissioner.

A quick dash from the Australian Mission to check out the workshop “Multicultural Society and Women in Asia” with speakers from Australia, Korea, Mongolia,  Sri Lanka and Nepal.  This workshop included issues and topics across the range of migrant parenting, social enterprises and the challenges and opportunities faced by women in multicultural societies across Asia.  This workshop was arranged by Young Hai Park and Sepali Kottegoda (Chair Asia Pacific Women’s Watch) and Anjana Shakya (Steering Committee Member Asia Pacific Women’s Watch) presented views from their countries.

At the end of the day, following the Government brief to NG) delegates, there was a short reception at the Mission to welcome the Australian delegation (both government and non-government) and to offer a networking opportunity for those attending and presenting at CSW 55th session.

More later…

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