Utah Valley University Students Advocate for Mountain Women at CSW63

In March 2019, students from Utah Valley University (UVU) advocated for mountain women and girls during the 63rd Session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63). The delegation included members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) and United Nations Association-USA, and advocated for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5 on gender equality as related to the three mountain targets under the SDGs.

Students prepared a written statement for CSW63 and submitted the statement through the co-sponsorship of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS) and Utah-China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce – two NGOs in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The statement, which outlined their concerns about the neglect of mountain women at ECOSOC forums, was distributed by ECOSOC as the official document E/CN.6/2019/NGO/64 on November 19, 2018. The statement also highlighted a 2015 study “Mapping the Vulnerability of Mountain Peoples to Food Insecurity” by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), which found out that 39% of developing countries’ mountain populations, including women – and 50% in rural areas – are vulnerable to food insecurity, and that from 2000–2012, 30% more mountain people suffered from food insecurity. Climate change, lack of access to education and jobs, and political turmoil further place mountain communities and women in dire circumstances.

The students also hosted a parallel event at CSW63 titled “Student Engaged Learning to Empower Mountain Women and Girls,” co-sponsored by RANS and UVU. Presenters included Dr. Baldomero Lago, UVU’s CIO/Vice Rector of Global Engagement; Taylor Bell, UVU student body president; and students Michael Hinatsu, Abdulrahman Alghanmi, Viktoriia Bahrii, Hannah Bieker, Rebecca Bindraban, Megan Davis, William Gum-Causey, Hailee Hodgson, Laila Mitchell, Ezra Pugliano, Aldon Trimble, and Noorani Barkat, PhD Candidate at Washington State University. They presented on issues such as the role of women in sustainable development, education, and civil society, and addressed concerns faced by indigenous women, mothers, and rural areas in Utah and around the world.

Since November 2018, the UIMF has worked closely with the NGO Commission on the Status of Women, New York (NGO CSW/NY), to add during five online conferences language about mountain women and girls, nontraditional students to the CSW63 draft final document. NGO CSW/NY represents over 100 global organizations concerned with gender issues. In those conferences, UIMF ensured that the draft document sent by NGO CSW/NY to UN Women contained references to the above topics. However, the document prepared by UN Women for ECOSOC member states, as well as the advance version of the final document itself, did not have such references at all.

During the Europe/North America caucus on March 19, 2019 and the civil society briefing on March 20, 2019, UIMF voiced their concerns that mountain women were left out, while other groups, such as island women, remained in the document. Ms. Hellen Swales, co-chair of the March 20, 2019 civil society briefing, recommended UIMF members organize the efforts of a coalition of states to advocate for language about mountain women. As part of their mountain women advocacy campaign, UIMF also for the first time worked closely with Rotary International, UN Academic Impact (UNAI), and UNA-USA to advocate for global mountain women. Additionally, students participated with Dr. Lago in meetings with the Permanent Representative of Tajikistan to the UN, Ambassador Mahmadamin Mahmadaminov, and PR of Turkmenistan to the UN, Ambassador Aksoltan Ataeva, as part of UVU preparations to host the UN Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, on August 26-28, 2019.

For more information, see: http://utahimf.org/archives/4488