Youth Participation at CSW60

From March 10 to 13, I was in New York, in the framework of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60). The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) “is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Commission adopts multi-year work programs to appraise progress and make further recommendations to accelerate the implementation of the Platform for Action. These recommendations take the form of negotiated agreed conclusions on a priority theme.”

So, during two weeks, feminist, civil society, UN entities staff, delegates of UN Member States and others, reunite at New York and the UN Headquarters, to converse, debate, strategize and negotiate on the progress and agreements of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and others Global Agendas, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are Civil Society’s/Women’s Caucus, Youth Forum, Side Events, Meetings, Workshops and many other things happening around the CSW. Not everything happens at the UN Headquarters, actually, it’s very common that the most significant conversations and political incidence, at least for Civil Society, happens outside the UNH.

This year, besides its importance, the CSW was particular for two reasons; it had the first Youth Forum, and it is the first CSW since the SDGs. The Youth Forum was held and coordinated by UNWomen, and was divided in 14 working groups, 7 each day. Our group, young women living with HIV and SRHR, was the only one working with SRHR, which was concerning. We were also part of the drafting team and it was complicated pushing the SRHR language, even though it shouldn’t be any surprise, since UNWomen was conservative at CSW59 as well. However, thanks to the amazing work of one colleague, we got to include the SRHR language into the Youth Declaration, an official CSW document.

Download it here: 2016 YouthCSW Declaration

My biggest concern was that, when we don’t have experience, we can be easily manipulated into agreements that doesn’t really represent what we want or at least how we wanted. We can easily accept things just because we don’t know how to respond, debate or pushing forward. We engage with agendas without questioning them, and this is why we need more training and tools so we can empower ourselves and promote our leadership. We can found ourselves in situations where we feel with low representation, that’s when, as young feminist, we create our own alternate spaces, declarations and networks, daringly.

Here you can download the Young Feminist Statement. Young Feminist Statement CSW60

This is a great place to learn about multiple agendas and how they interact with each other, how the negotiations with the UN Members States works, gives you a more global and inclusive perspective, and how sometimes just a word can change the whole context. However, this can be a very complex to effectively participate if it’s your first time, and there are some others challenges that can make the participation complicated, below those that I have experienced.

Idiom & Language: in most of the spaces the dialogue is in English, so following the whole full conversation can be difficult, not only for those who don’t speak English but also for those who are translating. Besides the idiom, the language per se, can be complicated because a single word contains an ideology, meaning and construct, depending on the context. So, because understanding and following both, idiom and language, can be confusing, you should find a good buddy that you can ask and definitely take some notes.

Age & Experience: it’s very common that young women and adolescents have less experience than more adult women. When the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was stablish in 1995, many of us where at elementary school learning to write and read. This means that when we, young women, join the conversation, there were already other women and feminist before us that already have made path and fought for many of the rights and spaces that now we have and we deeply appreciate. On other side, not every single issue that affected women 20 years ago, affect these generations in the same ways, and some, aren’t exactly priorities for our generation now. The challenges of this intergenerational differences is how to creatively use them as strengths and opportunities, not barriers. This can continue by ensuring, promoting and protecting more of the healthy dialogue, where no one feel oppressed by the movement.

Access to Internet & Information: even though access to internet may sound superficial compare to a number of issues that have higher priority, when we’re engage with this agendas and events, accessing internet can make a big difference in our participation, strategies and networking. And isn’t only about having accessibility, but having a device, computer, laptop, phone, etc. where we can work on. Accessing internet, sadly, can define the level of participation because it can give you the information you need, send it or build it, besides the use of the media and social networks to make political incidence. The lack knowledge is a direct effect of the lack of information, and this is why we need to create training spaces for young activist working with this without any financial remuneration.

Dealing with this challenges is not an easy thing, because there is too much going on in just two weeks. Often we fail in taking care and protecting us not only mentally, but fiscally. Sometimes you can forget when to eat, when to take your medication and staying warm. Sometimes we forget to let know our loves one that we’re ok, we forget to support our colleagues and asking “hey, how are doing?”, “Did you understand?”, “Did you eat?” or “hey! You should have some sleep!” Besides, we can be very judgmental and we rush to respond without thinking or for making decisions, that we forget that were equals but we have different perspective and levels of knowledge; sometimes we lose our goal. Sisterhood is a great medicine for this cases, knowing that most of us want the same thing, and that doesn’t matter which are our agendas and regions, we can all collaborate, work collectively without invalidating each other’s and that we can only be stronger together.

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