CSW 62: Empowering Rural Women and Girls

By Viviana Garcia-Blanco, Dominican Volunteer

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is an exclusive UN body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The CSW is an essential instrument that brings together UN member states, UN entities, and civil society organizations on behalf of fostering and creating new norms about the treatment of women and girls everywhere. Each year the Commission meets for two-weeks in March. This year the Commission will be in session 12th to 23rd of March to discuss the priority theme of “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.”[1]

Earlier this month, the official CSW62 Zero Draft agreed conclusions document was released. The document acknowledges the fact that rural women and girls are the most vulnerable group in society in terms of social, economic, and political injustices. The draft highlights key areas to be addressed such as access to basic rights such as education, health services, economic assistance, and legal aid. The document also highlighted the importance of investing in rural women’s agricultural businesses, of taking measures to protect rural women and girls from climate-induced disasters, and the need to include the participation of rural women in the political processes that impact their lives. The draft went further and called upon UN Member States, the private sector, civil society groups, and other international institutions to implement and uphold rural development policies. National measurements should also be applied to new policies and programs as these measurements translate into statistics that can be referenced to gain a better idea on how we can all improve the standard of living for rural women and girls.

In response to the draft, the civil society led NGO Committee on the Status of Women issued a Zero Draft Document Recommendations that brought up crucial points not addressed in the agreed conclusions. These points included an emphasis on protecting female migrants; implementing safe public transit in rural and urban cities; putting an end to child marriage; educating boys and men about the dangers of gender stereotypes; investing in rural clinics and preventative care programs; and providing access to technologies needed for an ever interconnected society. The Recommendations document brought up two very important points that I thought were instrumental to this year’s Commission. The first point made was the role media outlets play in shaping stereotypes surrounding rural women and girls. The media has the power and capacity to create positive narratives in communities and broader society. These outlets can be used as a platform to voice and document the lives of rural women and girls and can be used to inspire new societal norms. The second important point made involved heath services that specifically called for investment in frameworks that increase provider density by working with rural communities to recruit, train and retain medical professionals in these areas. There is no need to reinvent the wheel; health programs already exist on the ground. What needs to be done is to offer these professionals the support they need in order to meet the demands of the community. This recommendation made it a point to mention the importance to “Integrate local and indigenous knowledge and practices into health infrastructure.” If and when medical aid is provided to rural communities, outsiders cannot approach these communities with a western medical point of view. It is essential to recognize and respect the cultural and religious of beliefs of these peoples.

Civil society groups once again offer crucial gender perspectives to UN activities. These groups make it a point to hold UN entities accountable for the implementation of fair policies and for providing remedies to cultural insensitivities. As the CSW drawers nearer the DLC looks forward to the stimulating dialogues surrounding rural women and girls in the efforts to leave no one behind.

Click below to read the CSW62 draft agreed conclusions:

Click below to read the NGO CSW/NY CSW62 Zero Draft Document Recommendations:

[1] http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw