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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Menzie

Unleashing the Power of Gender Equality: Reflections from the Commission on the Status of Women

Written by Jennifer Menzie, 2023 CSW Fellow




The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is not merely a conference; it is a convergence of emotions, a whirlwind of gratitude and empowerment, and a stark realisation of the work that lies ahead. As I immersed myself in the discussions and experiences at CSW, one quote resonated deeply with me: “Men and women are two wings of a bird, and birds cannot fly without a wing”. This simple yet profound statement encapsulates the essence of gender equality in achieving not just world peace but also advancing towards all Sustainable Development Goals for a safer and inclusive global community.



Upon reflecting on my week at CSW, the passion and determination that was present in the atmosphere is indescribable. Whilst there is so much wrong in the world currently, it really is something special and inspiring to see a diverse range of individuals, mainly women, who are committed to make a positive change in the sphere of gender equality.


 

Throughout the week, I purposely planned my schedule to attend a diverse range of topics, as I wanted to experience, learn, and absorb as much information as possible. In multiple sessions, I heard the importance of listening to first-hand experiences and seeing what they say is needed to make a difference. I find this incredibly important, and I am glad it was voiced, as people who are not living in poverty, people who are privileged, and so on, are making decisions based on assumptions and this needs to be rectified. It is in this sense that I think critically about CSW being held each year in New York, as accessibility to the conference is limited and therefore a range of voices are not heard. True inclusivity demands broader participation and representation from diverse backgrounds and regions.


 

Additionally, one recurring theme that struck a chord was the emphasis on the importance of investing long-term to gender equality and not just implementing multiple short-term programs. Particularly, the term “investing” was used on multiple accounts. When reflecting on why “investing” was used, I appreciate the terminology as it has positive connotations and carries a sense of commitment and foresight. Thereby, this terminology signals a collective understanding that sustainable change requires continuous support and resources.

 

Another refreshing aspect throughout the week that I appreciated was the spotlight on the role of men in reshaping gender norms and challenging traditional notions of masculinity. This shift was great to see, as often women have been viewed as needing to change or women are seen as the problem, and therefore, historically achieving gender equality has been placed on women. However, males have a huge role in creating change, particularly cultural change, and the shift in focus is something I was impressed with. It highlighted that gender equality requires collaborative efforts.


Moreover, when considering what session stands out the most to me, it has to be the Townhall meeting with the Secretary General, António Guterres. In such a short time, he was able to address a vast amount of issues occurring in today’s world, including current wars and genocides, racial and gendered discrimination in algorithms, inequalities between developed and developing countries, the heightened prevalence of gendered violence, the “stubborn presence of racism”, the flaws of the United Nations and urgent need for reform, and the importance of increasing the threshold on when incarceration is justified. His passion to make a difference, his desire to listen to as many people as possible, and his honest criticism of the United Nations was truly memorable, and I could tell he was extremely genuine when he powerfully stated, “I will not give up”. After this session, I could tell everyone in the room left feeling heard and inspired to implement change, especially with his strong last statement being “fight for gender equality, take no prisoners”.


In essence, this experience has reinforced the importance of international cooperation in addressing global challenges. It has also ignited my passion and desire to implement what I have learnt into my community and use my voice to challenge current practices and offer recommendations. Again, it needs to be highlighted the inspiration felt following this conference, and how incredibly honoured I feel to have been able to be in the presence of such amazing individuals!

 

As we continue this journey towards gender equality, let us respond to the call to action, amplify diverse voices, and work collectively towards a brighter, more inclusive future.


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