Monday, February 21, 2011

Consultation Day!

Monday, February 21st

55thConference on the Commission on the Status of Women Consultation Day

The 55th Conference on the Commission on the Status of Women opened today in New York with a flurry of snowflakes and NGO representatives from multiple regions and cultures representing a variety of issues relevant to women’s issues. Opening events was the passionate former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, and the newly appointed Under-Secretary-General of UN Women followed by guest speaker Dr. Kaosar Afsana, who built BRAC Bangladesh, an organization that fights to help poor rural and urban women through mobile technologies. Following these accomplished women was a panel on education, science, and technology moderated by Mavic Cabrera-Balleza and speakers from Nigeria, USA, Israel, and Fiji. All of these women presented a formidable and powerful argument on the positive and essential relationships between women and science and technology. Despite the expertise of the women on the panel and without taking away from their contribution I would venture to say, and acknowledging the backlash this statement might foster, that the panel could have been enhanced by a diversity of gender. I could not help wondering whether an all women’s panel was an unconscious or conscious decision. Either way, the thought that a women’s conference should only have women contributors seems contradictory to the notion of gender equality. I would challenge the CSW women to consider whether they have truly embraced the notion of equality. Simultaneously, a lack of male contributors undermines CSW’s attempt to encourage the participation of boys and men in the fight against women’s issues. It might be a good example to set considering the general lack of male representation at the conference thus far. Are women’s issues seen as marginal issues to men or do men feel that they are unwelcome at events that women’s issues play a central role? I concede to know little about the true motivation for the lack of male presence and would truly welcome any feedback on this point. I look forward to speaking to the women of the CSW throughout these next two weeks and hopefully will come to understand their thought process.


  1. At the end of the last session, a representative from the Dutch Gender Platform talked about how she (and her organization) wishes to see more men involved in "women's" issues. She had some really interesting ideas - stay tuned for a post about an interview I had with her!

  2. Good blog! As for the men's participation question, I think that men at a women's conference (or any event focusing on women) feel reluctant to speak about women's issues. He would be in the position of telling a room full of women about themselves, and men that might want to participate would think "What right have I to do that? Isn't that the whole problem anyway, men dictating to women? Will questioning a woman's perspective be seen simply as yet another instance of male chauvinism?" Therefore, I think generally men are very confused about their role at this kind of conference and what levels of participation are and are not appropriate, so they may be likely to just avoid it rather than overstepping their bounds inadvertently. Keep up the good work!