BVM Reflections from CSW63

By: Roberta Whitem, BVM

Sitting at a lunch table in the UN listening to three Sudanese women telling their stories puts one’s worries and concerns into global perspective.  Such opportunities are available here at the CSW this 63rd year in New York.  Each year UN member states and civil society nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like Loretto at the UN sponsored by the BVMs meet among more than 9000 women representatives from around the world.  They discuss goals, progress and setbacks for women’s social, political and economic rights.  This year the theme was “Social protections, public services and infrastructure to contribute to gender equality.”  We heard reports of progress or regress on myriads of topics such as child marriage, human trafficking, political power, media, technology, pay gaps, increasing violence, health issues, misogynist backlash, etc.  Two phrases that stuck with me were, “What effects one effects all.”  That reminded me of our BVM motto, “Where one BVM or Associate is, we all are.”  Another saying was, “If women are not at the table, they are on the table!” Women MUST be involved in all areas of decision making, being 1/2 the world!  Areas of peace keeping, social justice, business, governance, religion, health, media, technology, etc. need women’s input.
    Kathy Linhardt relates of her UN experiences, “The most informative and moving talks I attended at this life-changing CSW63 focused on the world’s indigenous women, international sex trafficking and the role of women in peace processes. At the latter session we were encouraged to commit a year to what we consider the most pressing issue.  Thus I hope to continue to work on building peace as a concerned global citizen and as an involved grass roots member of my community.  As the facilitator put so well, “Let’s all come together and get on with it!”
     Kimberly Emery writes “We live in dark times, overwhelmed with the latest tragic news story and the chronic backsliding in our struggle for human rights and equality. It can be hard to feel hope for our broken world.  Yet hope was what I felt when encountering the energy of CSW63 and the passion of so many fighting for gender equality and women’s access to basic social services.  These days spent listening and learning from my global sisters restored my faith and empowered me to fight ahead. Onward!”
    Beth Rosen remarked, “I was so impressed that so many women are uniting to work for gender equality in our world.  Sometimes we in the US don’t think about fundamental life and death issues that are prevalent in some places on our earth.  Not that our USA issues of equality are not important, but here at the UN we get broad global viewpoints.  It’s really about how we must all work together for important world-wide parity and respect.”
    “This experience at the UN is unique, shares Saskia Alquinga. “Women need to participate with voice and vote at the table of negotiations in all areas.  Education and organization are the main pillars to empower citizens to exercise their rights and to be aware of active participation.  All people form a part of the civil society and therefore we need to empower girls and boys to stand up to the unjust systems in which we live.  There is an excellent hope that is guiding us for the present and next generations.  Looking for a new world will continue to demand from us our great labor with courage and love.”
    Mary Frances McLaughlin remarks,  “How exciting it was to be in the company of women from all over the world, and to be interacting with them in seminars and during meals was challenging, informative and unifying.  Some highlights for me were 1)Consultation Day with panelists from the UN, Oxfam, FEMINET in Kenya, Dawn from Argentina who were  discussing the theme of “Social Protections: Definition, Context and Vision.” 2)The Town Hall with the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez answering questions of concerns from different countries was thrilling.  Some questioned why the US denied visas to many registered for the CSW, as also happened in 2017. 3)There were opportunities to learn more about the plight of widows, child marriages, gender equality, disappointment in the process of the Beijing goals of 1995, sexual violence, bullying, leadership development, women in STEM education, economic equality in the workplace, and much more.”
     Again, the opportunity to hear from, sit and talk with women from China, Nepal, Sudan, and other countries half way around the world is so enriching and stretching to our hearts and minds.
     Next year are many anniversary celebrations: Beijing +25(12 issue statement), the 10th of UN Women, the 5th of the UN STGs( 17 Strategic Development Goals for our world by 2030), and the 75th of the UN itself!   Come and join us March 2020!