About the Author: Kristin M. Kane is a Public Diplomacy Officer for the Bureau of International Organization (IO) Affairs. She is attending CSW as part of the USUN-New York Press and Public Diplomacy team.
After the recent pounding of snow on New York City, at Monday's opening of the 2010 Commission on the Status of Women, or CSW, the sun was shining, the sky was bright, and the first day of March almost felt like the first day of a new season. Indeed, women who had come from around the world for the annual CSW meeting and side events arrived at the United Nations headquarters dressed in colorful clothing and wearing confident and contagious smiles, eager to take on the challenges of the world -- specifically, the pervasive challenge of the gender gap.
The line to get UN access badges wound around the corner, a seeming showing of the ambitions of those who have come to this international arena to make progress on women's rights -- through the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), through the UN-sanctioned Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and through a multitude of national, local and other initiatives.
As a member of the U.S. delegation on only my second day here, the message I am getting loud and clear from other conference attendees is “We are so happy to work with the U.S. Government.” By naming the first ever Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues, President Obama has raised the status of women as fundamental to our national security. In discussing the globe's current challenges on stability, governance, the environment, and economic development, Ambassador At Large Melanne Verveer states, “We won't succeed unless women are fully participating in the life of their societies.”
Ambassador Verveer spoke to a packed room of mostly, but not all, women non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives at the U.S. Mission here in New York; this was the first of four encounters with NGOs that the U.S. Mission is arranging to make sure that our government takes advantage of the knowledge and ideas of our non-governmental partners. Ambassador Verveer explained her efforts to ensure that women's issues, which are often distinct from the ones men face, are placed at the forefront of many of the global challenges of today: Giving the example of food security to a number of nodding heads, Ambassador Verveer emphasized that 60 -- 80% of small farmers are women, so achieving food security can only work if it considers and reflects the unique hurdles that women must overcome.
Despite some horrific abuse of women going on around the world, the Office of Global Women's Issues and the many domestic and international partners gathering here in New York this week are not looking for sympathy; these meetings are not occasions to portray women as victims. Rather, the goal is to make the world understand that women are problem solvers. They are, in fact, the solution.
President Obama understands this, Ambassador Verveer proudly tells the women gathered at the U.S. Mission and refers to the President's commitment to the MDGs, including MDG #3 -- promote gender equality and empower women -- as perhaps the central one to spur all of the others. “Women grow GDP,” Ambassador Verveer states. It is as simple as that.
The U.S. delegation and the other governmental delegations here, NGO groups, civil society representatives, and others, will be working to make sure that the message is heard loud and clear.
Related Entry: A Call for Action on Women, Girls, Gender, Equality, and HIV