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The 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) took place in mid-March at the United Nations Headquarters. As a first time delegate, I experienced an overwhelming amount of excitement. This was the real deal. CSW has the largest official NGO gathering in the world while simultaneously holding a United Nations conference about the progression and development of women’s rights. This year’s focus was on women’s economic empowerment and the focus on rights of indigenous women.
Economic empowerment brings to light the powerful image of an independent, 21st century woman. It also implies a solid foundation for gender equality, where a woman is also seen as the protector and provider for a family or herself. Studies led by the RWEE, the Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment organization indicated women who earned an income felt much more accepted and respected in society. Panel talks about working woman discussed the fact that women with higher wages experienced less sexism.
For the focus on indigenous women, a specific panel was held by UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, called the Trade and Gender: The Potential for Women’s Empowerment. A significant point in the conference that brought in the question of where indigenous women stand in economic empowerment efforts was when an indigenous group representative proposed the question of how culture would be integrated into policy work. Culture often is the elephant in the room when discussing social issues and transformation of norms. The young woman proposed the question of how the traditional economies tribal and indigenous groups were familiar with would contribute to the economic policies made to empower women of all social groups. This is an important shift of the spotlight as there is no universal key that solves problems for every type of individual.
Although the conference took place over a brief period of two weeks, the discussions held there are still traveling the world. Not only do I reflect on what I’ve learned daily, I’m putting it the knowledge to use by sharing and teaching others. Someday, there will be a future where every child receives an education, every girl and woman will be respected as an equal human being, and the world is overall cared for. Mutual respect is what needs to be worked on. Respect for all age groups, social groups, genders, and environments. This is how we learn and practice being good human beings. This is how we empower.