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February 1, 2013

Amanda Craine and I (Susan Brooksbank) are honored to be accepted as observers for the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) at the upcoming UN Commission on the Status of Women, March 4 – 15, themed “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”

Amanda and I are both members of Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church and are blessed to be part of such an active, vibrant church community.   Many at SVPC are active peace and justice seekers and doers, who have been inspirational to me.

I hope through this blog to provide some background information on CSW, its history and current activities, and also general issues surrounding gender that permeate all cultures and regions – including our own.

Why does the UN have such a commission?   Why is gender an issue?   Why bother?

The reasons are many, and as I go through my own reading and writing over the next month, we can explore the issues, both here and abroad.   (If anyone wants to comment, please feel free to share links to articles, reports, statistics, or any other general information that both shows the issues and celebrates the successes.)  We have seen the brave Malala Yousafzai, who defied the Taliban to speak out for girls education and was shot in the head for her words.   We have seen a brutal, fatal rape on a bus that took the life of a young woman in Delhi.    Yes, these are brutal, and yes, they are “out there.”    What about here?    We will explore issues both here and abroad, but let’s start with the history of the CSW to get us calibrated.   (most of the following is reprinted from the UN document on history of CSW)

1946:  CSW established because out of the 160 signatories of the UN charter signed in 1945, 4 were women who managed to include women’s rights into the founding document of the UN.  One was Virginia Gildersleeve, from the US, dean of Barnard College.  Quite remarkable for a woman born in New York City in 1877.

It’s early focus was “to raise the status of women, irrespective of nationality, race, language or religion, to equality with men in all fields of human enterprise, and to eliminate all discrimination against women in the provisions of statutory law, in legal maxims or rules, or in interpretation of customary law.”

1946 – 1962:  CSW focused its attention on promoting women’s rights and equality by setting standards and formulating international conventions aiming at changing discriminatory legislation and fostering global awareness of women’s issues.

Key topics:  Providing women universal access to political rights; Removing discrimination in marriage.  Improved access to education.  Women’s economic rights that led to the 1951 Convention on Equal Renumeration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value.  (yes, that’s in 1951)

1963 – 1975:  Promoting Participation of Women in Developing Countries.  Studies showed that women were disproportionately affected by poverty, so they centered much of their work on women’s needs in community and rural development, agricultural work, family planning, and the impact of scientific and technological advances.

1975: The International Women’s Year

1976 – 1985:  UN Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace.  The Decade contributed to bringing legitimacy to the international women’s movement, and moved women’s issues forward on the global agenda.

1979:  The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was formed, and defined discrimination as, “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”

1995 Beijing:  The Fourth World Conference was held in Beijing, and significantly advanced the global agenda for women’s human rights and gender equality.   (The CSW and its Secretariat led the preparatory process.)

The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for action, adopted unanimously by 189 countries, build on political agreements reached at the three previous global conferences on women and consolidated five decades of legal advances aimed at securing the equality of women with men in law and in practice.

Much of the work of the CSW since then has been focused on the results of the Beijing conference.   More on that in the next post.

To end this post, let’s leave it that the UN CSW has been active for the past 67 years promoting gender equality around the world.   I have seen wonderful achievements by women in my lifetime, but we sure do have a long way to go.


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  1. Pam Snyder permalink

    It has been a long journey and we haven’t been able to accomplish nearly enough! Let’s unite and utilize all resources available to us to promote gender equality and put an end to the violence that continues against women and children!

  2. Linda Hagan permalink

    Blessings for your journey for sure. You will join some women of hope and action! Am very excited that the UN/CSW comes more and WEST! We are ‘here’ too. Your experiences leading to NYC will be a gift as well.

    Find the Amish Market – and laugh, too!

    Faith and Hope – Linda Hagan

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