ARROW is engaging with the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (#CSW63) taking place at the UN headquarters in New York City. Our team will be bringing you thoughts on the deliberations from different perspectives in order to share with you what we are learning at this venue.
This is my first time at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). I have worked on CSW at the ground level to gather information and conduct consultations for further advocacy with the government.
I have heard about the intensity of work and commitment required during the CSW, but I never had the opportunity to participate in the process. I work to address Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Nepal especially; focusing on young people’s SRHR, CSE, safe abortion, abortion stigma etc. I have always wondered why we are still advocating and working on issues which had already been addressed and raised during the Beijing Conference, 24 years ago. I wondered why we still continue to advocate and fight for the fundamental rights of women and girls.
Before participating in CSW, my personal goal was to gather information, expand my knowledge and build my network, and so I wanted to participate in different side events, especially related to women and girls’ Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. The first day at CSW was intense, there was a lot of information and language that I was very uncertain about. I was lost and confused, but with the support of my mentors, I was able to gather information and gain clarity.
On the second day, I wanted to attend a side event that focused on young people’s SRHR. When I walked into the room, over 60% of the participants were young boys and girls. I was pleased (and jealous), they are so fortunate to get this opportunity and exposure at a young age. Young girls and boys from Nepal do not usually receive such an opportunity to advance their knowledge and experience. It is after tremendous hard work and tedious procedures that people are able to participate in these international platforms.
Nevertheless, the session provided information about the importance of comprehensive sexuality education and how it is vital in order to address young people’s SRHR. The panel shared their experiences on the positive impact of CSE on young people’s decision making power, their way of expressing their sexuality and how it can be used to reduce violence and discrimination faced by women and girls.
After the completion of the panel and during the question and answer session, I was shocked! I was impressed and horrified at the same time. To my surprise, these young people were speaking out against CSE. Their strategy was outstanding; as 60% of the room was filled by them, and each of them were raising their hands to ask questions, the odds were against us. They were articulate, eloquent and precise with their questions, they knew exactly how to get their message across. Fortunately, the panelists were able to reciprocate with class and eloquence.
After the session and during my reflection, I then realized why we continue to advocate and raise the issue of SRHR. Many young people, especially women and girls, face challenges in accessing basic reproductive rights and services such as access to contraception, family planning and information about SRHR. The backlash from detractors can have a tremendous impact on young girls and boys in Nepal and around the world. Why is there a continuous battle for a right that each and every woman and girl should be entitled to without question?
by Sanila Gurung