Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thursday UN Briefing: Nations in Transition

The focus of this year’s blog will be on the 56th annual conference for the Non-governmental Organization Commission on the Status of Women (NGO/CSW) which will take place in New York City from February 26 until March 9, 2012. However, this year’s festivities at the UN actually began informally on Thursday, February 23 with a Department of Public Information (DPI) briefing addressing “The Role of Civil Society in Building Democracy.” While not officially a part of the CSW conference, this program contained many ideas that directly apply to this year’s CSW theme of empowering rural women.

One of the speakers at the DPI briefing was Ms. Harriette Williams, a development strategist for Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS), an international women's NGO. Ms. Williams rightly emphasized womens’ roles in the protests and uprisings occurring throughout the world over the past several months. Conflict, she argued, is a setting that continues to be dominated by men. Women suffer equally from conflict but are often shut out from peace mediation and the negotiation of societal change. As it applies to the recent uprisings and nations that are adopting new governments, Ms. Williams communicated the importance of women’s participation in elections. Women must be encouraged to participate as candidates, organizers, and voters, in order to ensure accountability and equal rights in government.

A second panelist, Mr. Nejmeddine Lakhal of Algeria, offered an expert perspective on the recent uprising in Tunisia. He expressed the hope of this nation in the aftermath of their political transition, where “hundreds of new social justice programs” have been formed. The focus of these programs, he shared, must be to benefit “men and women of all generations, especially youth.” The key point is that the recent protests and uprisings are not merely political in nature. People are demanding social change, providing an opportunity for victims of discrimination to demand change for themselves as well as their nations. Through a renewed emphasis on activism, new programs and organizations can be formed to achieve equality for women. This is certainly a positive message as we look to incite much-needed action on the issue of women's equality in the coming weeks.

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