The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide. The Commission met from 9-21March 2014 in New York this year.
Team of Control Arms Foundation of India and Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network were present there and hosted a parallel event under the theme “Engaging Women for Resolving Conflicts, Usher in Peace, Disarmament, & Development in South Asia”.
It was supported by an ongoing project “Empowering Women for Peace and Development in South Asia, including Myanmar” in collaboration with Deutsch Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and supported by European Commission.
Women's role remains weak and insecure in all social, political and economic activities in South Asia. In India, 22 girls get kidnapped every day. Out of the number of children who were kidnapped, 66% (10,938) are girls. Child mortality and maternal mortality levels in South Asia are among the highest globally. 46% of women aged 20-24 in South Asia married before the age of 18; 3.3% of women in South Asia (India and Bangladesh) face non-partner sexual violence.
The session commenced with an introductory speech by Ms. Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, and Secretary General, Control Arms Foundation of India welcoming all the panelists at the event. She gave an overview of the disturbing situation and status of women in South Asia, against the background of the region's prolonged inter and intra-state conflicts and patriarchal nature. She described how in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal, women are the victims of rape, abduction, child marriages, female infanticide, acid attacks, dowry-related murders, honor killing and enslavement.
She furthermore criticized that many South Asian conflicts, such as that in Northeast India, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, are left unreported by mass media. She also mentioned the ongoing armed violence caused by small arms, light weapons within the Northeast India region. More than 50,000 lives have been lost in the violence. The conflict in Manipur turns 300 women into widows annually. She called on international communities for the help to combat the problem and ensure countries that India implement UNSCR 1325.
Ms. Maria Butler, Programme Director, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, PeaceWomen Project, USA, focused on the need for a shift in CSW from military to human security and the links between development and militarism, identifying however a huge resistance as to imbedding disarmament in the development agenda. She accentuated how the post-2015 development agenda cannot keep silent on militarism if we want human rights abuses to be truly addressed. She also referred to the earlier-mentioned India's resistance to apply Resolution 1325, calling this 'the core of the challenge' of their work, calling for voices that acknowledge that aforesaid resolution is in fact applicable everywhere.
Ms. Sarah Boyd, Founder, The Gender Agency, Australia, underlined the importance of women's voices going from the private to the public sphere, merging private and public spheres to raise women's consciousness, collective investment in ensuring that CSW nor the post-2015 agenda remain silent on critical issues of gender equality, peace (keeping), development, disarmament and their intersections, and the importance of CSO's as the ties that bind the foregoing elements.
Ms. Fiona McAlpine, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network/Young WILPF Network, Australia, addressed the issues of murder and forced disappearance of women and girls in India and the lack of access to justice, forged evidence and post-mortem reports, and impunity (as a consequence of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act) in that context. She accentuated that without including disarmament and demilitarization, the CSW is moot, as there can be no development without disarmament, which is also a prerequisite for access to justice.
Also a short film titled, “We Shall Find Our Peace” was screened at the event that depicts the hardships and sufferings happening due to the ongoing conflict situation in the state of Manipur, India and eagerness of the population to promote peaceful environment in the region. The film showed the strength and hope among the Manipuri Women to overcome the hardships and violence in their state.
There were valuable discussions among the panelists and other participants across India, USA, Brazil, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and many others on Women, Peace and Security, types of violence and discrimination they are facing across the globe. Further discussions were on the possible steps that could be taken for the empowerment of women, their role in conflict transformation, disarmament, and decision-making processes. The event was ended successfully with valuable inputs and suggestions from esteemed Panelists.