This is the eighth part of a series of blogposts from our engagement with the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women (#CSW62) taking place at the UN headquarters in New York City. Read the first part here, second part here, third part here, the fourth part here, the fifth part here, the sixth part here, and the seventh part here.
Ostensibly, CSW 62 focuses on the empowerment of rural women and girls. However, the reality of it is quite different; women and young people working on the ground on the very same issue, who has expertise and a complete understanding of the barriers and challenges that rural women face, are being kept out of the conversation, not the least due to the numerous visa denials that has taken place over the last two weeks.
Events such as the CSW 62 enable participants from civil societies like us to learn and share best practices, to network with people working in diverse issues and to work together towards a collective advocacy, with the ultimate goal of having an outcome document that spell out the aspects of rights of diverse groups of women, girls and the people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.
Why is that important? In the context of Nepal, there is no denying that there is a deeply entrenched patriarchal value system and a huge gender equality gap. This has led to many harmful practices still being done today, including child, early and forced marriages, and chaupaddi (a discriminating legacy tradition against menstruating women) – despite them being banned legally. Young people have very little access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and information, and they are prone to unintended pregnancies. This is why it is important for us civil society organisations (CSOs) to continuously advocate for governments at provincial/national level as well as at regional and international mechanisms to ensure that the human rights of women and girls in Nepal is preserved so that they are able to live a dignified life, free from violence, discrimination and coercion. To hold the powers that be accountable, in so many words.
However, this year’s CSW 62 saw many young women advocates from Nepali CSOs being denied visas, on the grounds of them not being married of all things, and not having enough experience abroad, represented by the lack of visa stamps in their passport from other developed countries. This represents a loss of “volume” in terms of them having their voices heard in a venue that really matters. Their comprehensive experience with rural women, best practices, the challenges they face and most importantly their recommendations will not be captured. Worst still, they have to watch as other people who are not as cognisant of the issues of rural women’s lives take over and lead discussions and making decisions on their behalf. Experience and expertise, it seems, mean very little at global-level mechanisms.
Unfortunately, this visa matter continues almost everyday. How can we achieve the goal of empowering rural women and girls – not leaving them behind, as the Agenda 2030 would say – if we don’t even give them the space and time to speak up? Who better to start discussions and give recommendations than the people who have been working with rural women and girls on the ground? If indeed entry visa is really the problem – a matter of pure logistics, not some sinister conspiracy to silence the voice of women, why have these monumentally important events held in “hard to reach” countries? As long as these questions remain unanswered, the voice of marginalised groups will always be under-represented!
Rakshya Paudal, Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC), Nepal
Kamal Gautam, YUWA, Nepal
 Those aiming to participate in CSW as well as other UN events need to first of all register their names in the ECOSOC council, a mandatory step to enter the UN building where the commission takes place. A letter of approval is then received upon registration, which allows delegates to get a pass card to enter the building. Subsequently, the next important step is to enter the United States itself, which requires a valid visa. Delegates have to fill out an online form and pay a fee of USD 160 to apply for US visa in their country of origin (Nepal, in our case), which is then followed by an interview by the US counsellor in the US embassy in the country of origin; then, the approval or denial of visa is finally decided.
 And as demonstrated by ARROW’s previous From the Frontlines blogpost (part 6), these discussions and decisions are in fact so far removed from the lived realities of rural women and girls as to be almost laughable.