As soon as the team touched down in New York lobbying began. Soroptimists worked to distribute flyers to attend SI side events and to convey to others the reasons why they were there, and what they were pushing for. UN Representatives organised a stall selling SI goods and delegates attended meetings and events at the Missions in order to reach Ambassadors and those of influence in the decision-making processes. Delegates distributed one of our key documents ‘10 Reasons why Governments must Act Now on Violence against Women and Girls’ and networking with other NGO’s took place.
Soroptimist International held two side Events – one was entitled ‘Stop the Tide: Tackling Adolescent Dating Violence’ and included speakers from The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and Take Back the Tech. This side event included four panelists who explored the topic of teenage dating violence and preventative initiatives. This event was so popular that 60 people had to be turned away!
The second side event was entitled ‘From Girl Child to Mature Woman: A Life Course Approach to Gender Empowerment and Violence-free Life’. This was solely a Soroptimist International side event and included a panel of Soroptimist International members who are professionals in the field of gender violence. Speakers stressed an urgent need to identify evidence-based and promising prevention strategies that tackle challenges experienced at various stages of a woman’s life from girl child to mature woman.
Soroptimists worked continually to keep pressure on Governments to deliver a strong outcome document. Daily briefings were held each morning for the core Soroptimist delegation, as well as daily NGO briefings for all Soroptimists to listen first-hand to updates on the high-level meetings, to find out which countries were holding back an effective outcome document, and which subject areas were proving controversial. The Soroptimists who had passes for the high level meetings targeted representatives for those countries to advocate for changes.
Certain Member States wanted references to “girls” deleted from all paragraphs in the Draft Outcome Document ‘because girls are deemed to be under parental control and in some countries a girl is only recognized as the “property” of her father’. These countries’ proposed to substitute references to “gender equality” with other descriptions and planned to roll back safeguards found in earlier agreements, conventions and declarations.
CSW 57 also saw controversy over issues surrounding reproductive health/rights as well as harmful practices carried out in the name of culture or tradition. Other key issues that emerged from the CSW 57 were the importance of educating men and boys in preventing gender-violence and the need to consider how the rights of women and girls can be promoted in the post-2015 development agenda.
Urgent Call to Action
Anusha Santhirasthipham, past Assistant International Programme Director put out an urgent message for Soroptimists in the appropriate countries to put pressure on their Governments. She urged Soroptimists to log onto the CSW57 UN Webcasts and listen to the speeches by their respective country representatives at the UN and to remain very vigilant.
On March 13th Soroptimist International published an article telling the world that Women’s Human Rights are NOT negotiable expressing anger and disappointment at attempts to backtrack on existing international agreements on violence against women and girls stating “We strongly demand that all governments and the international community reject any attempt to invoke traditional values or morals to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, or to limit their scope.”
Soroptimist International expressed alarm at the increasing incidence of femicide and called for urgent, concerted action in this area. “Femicide is growing substantially all over the world and often remains unpunished, which not only intensifies the subordination and powerlessness of women and girls, but also sends the negative message to society that male violence against females may be both acceptable and inevitable”, said Anusha Santhirasthipam, who delivered an oral statement prepared by SI with the Vienna NGO Committee on the Status of Women and participants of the Vienna Symposium on Femicide in 2012.
Soroptimist International made recommendations to Member States, UN and other International entities and civil society organisations to:
- adopt and implement legislation specifically targeting femicide, in line with effective experience in some countries;
- design, implement and evaluate prevention programmes
- ensure legal protection and public policies for survivors of violence against women;
- conduct research on public education and practical interventions to promote a culture of respect without discrimination.