Preparations are in top gear by Nigerian women to join counterparts from other countries for the 64th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) in New York from March 9 – 20, 2020. ENE OSANG writes on its significance to the development of women in Nigeria.
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) is the principal global inter-governmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. It is a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), established by its resolution 11(II) of June 21, 1946.
The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Top on the agende of this annual meeting are discussions about progresses and gaps in the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the key global policy document on gender equality, and the 23rd special session of the General Assembly held in 2000 (Beijing+5), as well as emerging issues that affect gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Member states agree on further actions to accelerate progress and promote women’s enjoyment of their rights in political, economic, and social fields. The outcomes and recommendations of each session are forwarded to ECOSOC for follow-up.
This year the global community would mark the 25th anniversary of the fourth world conference on women and the BPFA (1995).
2020 is therefore a pivotal year for the accelerated realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, everywhere.
CSW impact on Nigeria’s development
According to renowned gender activist and women’s rights advocate, Ms. Ene Ede, who has participated in several sessions, “The CSW is the biggest gathering of high level delegations from member countries which brings the whole world to converge and take stock of what is done towards women’s development.”
Ede said the conference is instrumental to the progresses women have so far made in the country, noting though that a lot still needed to be done even when so much has been achieved.
Similarly, a gender, health, women’s rights, and women, peace, and security expert Eleanor Nwadinobi said the CSW meeting “is a wonderful opportunity for networking.”
She said Nigerian women, who attend the CSW, are able to network and find out best practices from other countries which they can practice back in Nigeria, adding that it also enable them to meet with potential funders for developmental projects.
“The benefits are tremendous to Nigeria as the quality of programming has improved by virtue of sharing of best practices. Attending CSW has great value for money,” she noted
On her part, the Executive Director Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center, Emem Okon, noted that CSW focusing on Beijing+25 promises to be a very significant meeting, adding that the CSW64 is a period of reflection whether or not the Beijing Platform For Action (BPFA) is still relevant.
“It offers the opportunity to review the milestones achieved by stakeholders towards the actualization of the 12 critical areas of concern.
“I don’t think resources are wasted attending the CSW as some people insinuate. It’s a capacity building forum. Many of those attending may not have seen or read the Beijing declaration and the platform for Action, the meeting will provide that occasion for them to have a copy and understand the provisions.
“CSW64 will awaken the zeal to design more women development initiatives. State parties will renew commitments and be more responsive to demands accountability. It’s also an opportunity to remind government about the SDG framework.
“Many women activists will broaden their Network of partners, donors, coalitions, institutions and learn about grassroots initiative to replicate in their constituencies.”
She said, “Kebetkache’s first grant was by global fund for women after meeting them in CSW. Then delegates have access to resource materials. Infact you can get more information about NIGERIA that will be relevant to your work while networking during CSW in New York that you never know while here at home.
“Above all, you have a chance to be at the UN. Being there is empowerment, you learn a lot of things, you feel the power to engage and become more assertive.”
Meanwhile, the Executive Director, Center for Organisational Development, Lady Nkiru Celine Okoro, said Nigeria-based CSOs have been very active in ensuring the implementation of BPFA and in this process have produced shadow reports for every celebration of BPFA and have also organised roundtables to assess the extent of implementation in the country.
She disclosed that the outcome of these engagements shows that while a lot of progress has been made, many gaps and limitations remain at the level of policies, programs and legal frameworks in the Beijing twelve Critical Areas of Concerns.
“2020 presents us with a generational opportunity to mobilize everyone who believes that a better world is possible, to seize this anniversary moment to make change at community, local, state and federal levels and in our private and public spaces.
“It is also to strengthen the feminists and women’s movement’s collective influence on government, the private sector and development partners in the drive for a fairer and more equitable society.”
Nigeria’s participation at CSW64
Ede stressed the need for Nigeria’s participation at the upcoming session, saying it has enough value addition such as capacity building, sponsorships among others.
“This meeting is not only for women, all countries send representatives and the meeting is ver impactful to Nigeria because there are other side benefits like travel education and other economic gains.
“Since 20 years ago when I started attending the CSW, I have never regretted because it’s very impactful. I have been able to meet people from other countries, got books and CD’s that can’t be found easily.
“It is a meeting of the world on women issues. Countries converge to take stock, and taking stock is important because it is an accountability platform where people showcase results of what good they have done. Those who have benefitted from the good effects also come to showcase and Nigeria has many things to showcase.
“Nigeria has reached historical low for women and it is best time to go there, get funding and get reinforced to change things for the better,” she said.
For Okon, the Nigeria has been present at the CSW64 so gather more experiences to address the current security situation in the country especially because women are affected.
“What has been done to address issues of women in armed conflicts. This is huge considering the Boko Haram insurgency and the plight of women in the North-east especially the incidents of the chibok girls, and the case of Leah Sharibu. So how do we use Beijing platform for action to address these cases?
“The killings and kidnappings going on in the country, what has been done to address the concerns of women? Let’s also examine government responses in some scenarios and their impact on women such as operation python dance in South East; operation crocodile smile and others,” she stressed.
“Where are we on issues of women inclusion in decision making and the issue of the girl-child? We are witnessing increased violence against the girl child including rape and sexual abuse, physical torture, trafficking. We need to question if our government is still committed to implementing the BPFA,” said.
Achievement to showcase
Ede further confirmed the impact of attending CSW sessions over the years stating that women and different advocacy groups on the need for inclusion encouraged the military to setting up an all female cadet.
“When you talk about the security sector and government reforms, Nigeria is about the top most in the world and is making progress in the inclusion of women in the military but recently, we have a whole battalion that is an all women corps called Nigeria Army Women’s Corps (NAWC), which is unprecedented. The current Chief of Army, Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai established this and we are proud of it.
“Today, women can now aspire to be commanders at the battalion, brigade and corps level which was, hitherto, not attainable.
“Also, more female soldiers can now fill leadership posts such as RSM and Chief Clerk that used to be dominated by men. We are beginning to see this happen within the context of security reform and governance, and for Buratai to locate gender in this area when achieving this in politics and other areas are tough is worth showcasing at the CSW64,” she said.
Speaking further she said, “Also, institutions have been built today through peer mentoring and review to upgrade the standard. Women now participate in elections, boundaries broken.
“We need to showcase what the armed forces, para-military is doing as regards women development to the world because different governments, Civil Society Organisations (CSO) International Donor agencies, and other bodies interested in gender equality and development of women will be there.”
On her part, Nwadinobi said the calibre of women Nigeria is blessed with is a very tangible achievement to showcase at the meeting.
“Nigeria can showcase the calibre of women who can be potential leaders. Nigeria can show case the strength of civil society in their ability to network and raise their voices examples include the Bring Back Our Girls campaign.
“Nigeria can also show case it’s Personalities at the United Nations. The deputy secretary general is Nigerian. The African union representative to the UN is Nigerian. The president of the General assembly is Nigerian.
“However, Nigerians should expect to be asked questions regarding the situation of security in the country as well as poor representation in elective and appointed posts and it should spur them on to do better in the near future,” she said.
Okon regretted that Nigeria has not achieved much as expected in terms of women development, she maintained that more women are breaking barriers against all odds which are achievements to be proud of
“It might not be too much but there should be some level of achievement. What has been our collective achievement? As a media person are there some level of achievement as regards women and the media? The situation has been two steps forward five steps backwards.
“Despite that more women are breaking barriers and limits. More women are speaking up. More women are resisting abuse and exclusion.”