CSW 68 Reflection  

The 68th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) occurred at a critical juncture in the fight for gender equity. From infringements on civil rights and liberties to attacks on human rights across the globe, CSW 68 echoed the call for direct action for present and future generations of women and girls. As a college sophomore and organizer dedicated to investing in young women and girls of color, it was a blessing and privilege to arrive in New York for the commission. CSW 68 allowed me to meet youth leaders across non-governmental organizations, connect with faith-based leaders through Ecumenical Women, convene with activists at the forefront of the global movement, and hear insights on strides across the world to address this year’s priority theme: “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.” My reflections on CSW 68 and the sessions I attended are surmised below:

Gender-Responsive and Inclusive Financing is Key to Attaining SDG 5

In accordance with the priority theme, a focal point of CSW 68 was the need for consistent monetary investments– from governmental stakeholders to leaders in the public/private sector– to foster sustainable economic conditions for women and girls. In the session “Accelerating Gender Equality Through Social Protection and Digital Innovation in Malawi,” Plan International shared its experience implementing women’s economic empowerment programs through social protection systems in Malawi’s Machinga and Mulanje districts. By implementing a social cash transfer program and employing an inclusive market systems approach, the program fostered job opportunities while helping women and girls meet basic needs and build economic resilience. I found this approach to resonate with remarks in a latter session, “Harnessing Social Protection to Tackle Poverty and Empower Women and Girls,” hosted by the Permanent Mission of Belgium and the Delegation of the European Union to the UN. This session emphasized the need to transition to a care economy, prioritizing a humanitarian whereas capitalistic approach to government financing to center women’s rights and dignity. An aspect of this session that stood out to me was the call for broadscale macroeconomic shifts to address unpaid (reproductive) labor, which often hinders women and girls from entering the labor market.

These sessions underscored that the call for gender equality is intrinsically connected to economic and, thus, reproductive and racial justice. It is impossible to finance equitably through a gender perspective without accounting for intersecting forms of oppression that foster systemic inequalities hindering the accumulation of wealth. As a student studying Political Science with a concentration in Gender, Race, and Politics, this made me ponder upon the ways we can more strategically call upon our elected officials to integrate intersectional gender equity into financing decisions, particularly at the local and state levels, to bring forth economic justice for all.

We Must Intentionally and Consistently Amplify The Voices of Women and Girls. 

During my first day at CSW 68, I attended “Breaking Chains: Women’s Quest for Life in Gaza,” hosted by the League of Arab States. The session convened representatives from the State of Palestine to underscore the dire conditions experienced by women and girls in the Gaza Strip. From a lack of access to daily necessities to exposure to physical and sexual violence, the human rights of women and girls in Gaza have been grotesquely violated, placing their lives in imminent peril. In addressing the need for global action, a representative from the State of Palestine stated: “The mask has been taken off. We either champion truth and justice or continue under deception.” Similar sentiments were echoed during a later session hosted by Finland, Qatar, Italy, and UN Women titled “No Poverty Eradication Without The Empowerment of Women and Girls – Next Steps For the Future of Afghanistan.” During the session, Ms. Mahbouba Seraj posed the question, “Do you know what it’s like to be erased?” Speaking with regard to unprecedented restrictions on girl’s education in Afghanistan, Ms. Seraj highlighted that women and girls “[are like] a bird trapped in an iron cage.”

As I sat amid both sessions, a weight fell upon everyone in attendance. For years, we have witnessed unprecedented atrocities transpire before our eyes– in Haiti, Congo, Sudan, Palestine, Afghanistan, and nations across the globe. As a youth activist, these sessions reminded me of the role we all must play to combat the invisibilization of women and girls’ stories. From educational sessions to sharing resources on our college campuses, I am reminded of the torch we must carry daily to break the silence of marginalization by amplifying the stories of women and girls in their complete authenticity. Women and girls across the world deserve to be heard, and we cannot meet this moment with silence.

Re-Imagine Investment in Youth Voices 

As one of the younger delegates at CSW 68, I was excited to attend “What Adolescent Girls Want: Priorities and Solutions,” hosted by the United Kingdom. The session featured speakers from UNICEF’s Global Girls Leaders Advisory Group– from the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Peru, and the United States– calling for the meaningful incorporation of girls at decision-making tables pertaining to SDG 4 (Quality Education). The panelists stressed the importance of stakeholders not only listening to women and girls but intentionally ensuring that our voices are reflected in tangible decisions at the national and community levels. As a contributor to varied youth-based initiatives– from the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign to PERIOD.– I found this conversation to be incredibly timely. As we face critical elections in nations across the globe, this session underscored the importance of intentionally engaging with youth activists. Young people seek not solely to be listened to but to be treated as active collaborators in decision-making processes.

Closing Call: We Must Move Forward

As I left CSW 68, numerous thoughts were swarming through my mind. On one hand, I left ignited with a drive to incorporate my insights into my advocacy work on my college campus and beyond. On the other hand, I left feeling the heaviness of the state of the world. In an era defined by hopelessness and despair, CSW 68 reminded me that we must keep fighting. We must muster the capacity inside of us to hope when all feels extinguished. Keep on building. Keep on marching, working, shouting, and, quite frankly, crying. Allow yourself to heal, and allow yourself to be. The work that we have embarked upon surpasses one’s lifetime. We must continue to build transnational coalitions of impassioned individuals devoted to the cause of freedom and equity to attain liberation for all.