IFMSA at the Commission on the Status of Women

My name is Joelle Reid, a 4th year medical student and the National Officer for Sexual and Reproductive Health including HIV/AIDS (NORA) for the Federation of Uganda Medical Students’ Associations (FUMSA). I had the amazing opportunity to be one of the IFMSA delegates attending the 59th session on Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, early in March 2015. I had this amazing opportunity along with Ruth (from Ethiopia), Wendy (from Nigeria), Wonyun (from South Korea), and Kelly (our liaison officer for SCORA).

The CSW took place from the 9th – 20th March 2015. For those of you who do not know what the CSW is, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. This year’s session focused on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – an outcome of the Fourth World Conference of Women in 1995 which focuses on gender empowerment and gender equality globally – and the achievements and setbacks in implementation after 20 years after its adoption.

For those of you who may not understand how the session at the UN works – don’t worry I was clueless too – the session is continuous throughout the 11 days which takes place in the assembly hall, but there are countless side events that take place throughout the 11 days in many different locations. The side events are organised by various governments, non-governmental organisations, charitable organisations etc. where there is discussion around the theme – many of these side events are open to the public.

Some of the side events I attended that I found very interesting are:

  • Every woman every child: Saving Lives, Protecting Futures, an Every woman every child high-level event hosted by the secretary general
  • Violence against women online
  • Girls at the centre

Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) was an initiative launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in September 2010; this initiative aims to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015. The side event was hosted by the Secretary-General himself and called on all people in all areas to commit to improving women’s health and child health. EWEC believes everyone has a role to play in improving the health of women and children worldwide, including us as medial students and future doctors worldwide.

Another side event, organised by the UK government, Government of Denmark, Plan UK and others, focused on the violence against women online in particular something called revenge porn. Revenge porn is sexually explicit media e.g. pictures, videos etc. that are distributed without consent from the individual(s) involved. They shared some stories on women who experienced revenge porn and showed how government are now developing laws against it.

Girls At The Centre was the most inspirational and emotional side event I attended at the CSW. Girls at the centre was a side event hosted by World Vision UK and is about putting girls’ rights at the centre and giving them a voice to discuss issues affecting them in their communities and on an international platform. They had two young girls from Kenya speaking about their experiences. One girl exuded confidence and seemed so delightful; she was also blind and needed some assistance to get on the stage. But, as soon as she spoke them whole room listen and breathes were held, she was so confident and assertive and composed as she told us a sad story of how she was constantly sexually and verbally abused by her father and finally found refuge in her education, and it was that helped her grow confident and stand tall. Holding back tears we all applauded loudly and proudly.

The UN has 9 major working groups which represent the key sectors of society and these groups ensure the engagement of all people within the intergovernmental processes of the UN, including the development and implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). While at the CSW I had an amazing opportunity to participate in a meeting with the major working group for children and youth. This is something that all of us can get involved with locally and nationally. You can do this by visiting: childrenyouth.org/internal/children.

Entry written by Joelle Reid, FUMSA-Uganda

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