Meaningful Participation at #CSW61: #MissingVoices

By Nela Abey

Secretary-General António Guterres holds a town hall meeting with representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations associated with the sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) (Photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

The Commission on the Status of Women is usually a global mobilising space for women’s rights. However, this year, the US travel ban prevented the participation of many women. The US travel ban is just the tip of the iceberg and part of broader obstacles to women’s meaningful participation, which all must be overcome.

WILPF and its partners protested women’s exclusion at the CSW61. We refused to engage formally, moved our events with our partners in Syria, Libya and Yemen to Geneva, shared an open letter to ambassadors in New York and Geneva and worked with our grassroots network and partners to raise awareness of #MissingVoices at the CSW61 in diverse spaces and with a broad range of stakeholders. We also provided alternative spaces for excluded women to share their expertise and raise their voices.

The issue was raised at the highest levels. Civil society brought attention through a #NoBordersOnGenderJustice initiative (led by MADRE, Just Associates (JASS), CWGL, AWID, Urgent Action Fund, Women in Migration Network and Outright Action International), empty chairs campaign, a rally, and outreach; governments also raised the issue of women’s exclusion during negotiations. The 17 March 2017 UN Secretary General Town Hall meeting with society included an empty chair recognising  women's missing voices. The final Agreed Conclusions outcome document also addressed meaningful participation of women in decision-making as a key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence.

A lot of work is ahead: Ongoing obstacles continue in the shape of visa rejections, sidelining on panels, lack of action on the Women, Peace and Security commitments and otherwise. To ensure that this conversation moves forward, WILPF will be holding a convening on overcoming obstacles to women’s meaningful participation at the UN in Geneva at the end of April 2017.  

Join us in taking further action for change!

Find WILPF's official statement to Member States in English and Arabic here

Find more information about the WILPF April 2017 convening here