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Each year hundreds of organizations and civil society activists attend the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). They come from across the world to share and exchange ideas, make connections and push for change. Here are some of their voices on what they hope to achieve.
Aristide Jean Francois Zongo, Burkina Faso
Aristide Jean Francois Zongo is the Executive Director of the Burkinabes Association for Child Survival. Created in 1991, the non-governmental organization advocates for the development of women and children in Burkina Faso, with a specific emphasis on gender equality. “One of our strategies is to promote women’s rights to enable women, who constitute 52 percent of the national population, to have certificates delivered by the registry of births, deaths and marriages,” explains Zongo. To reach its goals, the association campaigns for the better delivery of public services to villages and rural populations. It also works on the political participation of rural women in order to increase the number of women mayors and councillors in various rural areas. Zongo is hopeful that by participating in the CSW, he can help link his association with others working for rural women in Burkina Faso. He is attending the Commission as an Yvonne Hebert scholar, a scholarship programme facilitated by UN Women.
Honorata Francis Mvungi, Tanzania
Honorata Francis Mvungi has been actively involved with The Grail, an international women’s movement, for more than 30 years and has represented Tanzania at the Grail International Council meetings. She has helped to lift rural women in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya from poverty by training them in the skills related to permaculture and micro-economic projects. Ms. Mvungi is currently working on family planning, health and education programmes with Maasai and rural women, including on HIV/AIDS. She reports seeing a shift in the mentality of both young men and women towards Female Genital Mutilation.
Lilly Be’Soer, Papua New Guinea
Lilly Be’Soer Kolts is the founder of the women’s human rights NGO, Voice for Change, in Papua New Guinea. She has been a victim of tribal conflict and also a survivor of polygamous marriage. She is currently raising six children alone. She defines herself as “a women’s human rights defender” and has taken a lead in facilitating mediation tribal conflicts and wars in Papua New Guinea. In 2010, she was awarded a Pacific Human Rights Defenders Award. This year, she successfully coordinated a peace reconciliation to resettle 500 internally displaced families and is also facilitating a drug surrender programme for youths in her local district. Be’Soer is currently the General-Secretary of the newly established regional network Highlands Regional Human Rights Defenders Network.
Margarita Quintanilla, Nicaragua
Margarita Quintanilla has extensively worked in the field of gender-based violence, with both governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations. She is currently the country representative of the international organization PATH, in Nicaragua, which works, among others, to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls, through community-based approaches and by strengthening the health services’ responses to victims/survivors. She is also the coordinator of InterCambios Alliance, a regional network of organisations, created to coordinate different efforts that address violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean. She is the author of numerous publications on gender-based violence and she carried out monitoring and evaluation of several interventions addressing violence against women in the region, which resulted in compilation of good practices and lessons learnt.
Marie Saidi, Zambia
Marie Saidi is a community leader of the Katuba Women’s Association promoting access to land for rural women in Zambia. “We have carried out a mapping exercise that indicated that grassroots women found it difficult to acquire land because of the patriarchal setup, legal illiteracy, corrupt tendencies by local land administrators, lack of information to secure land and lack of resources to secure and develop land,” she explains. The organization is also working on climate change issues encouraging women to diversify their farming activities, which improve communities’ capacity to survive when a disaster occurs. Saidi hopes to meet decision-makers who are advocating for women’s rights during the CSW. She is attending the Commission as an Yvonne Hebert scholar, a scholarship programme facilitated by UN Women.
Marai Larasi, United Kingdom
Marai Larasi is the Director of Imkaan which is an UK-based national organization dedicated to challenging violence against black, minorities and refugee women and girls. She is also the Co-Chair of the country-wide End Violence against Women Coalition. Her work focuses on strategic advocacy and policy development, and her organization also works on the challenges associated with the prevention of violence against women and girls.
Dr. Mishkat Al Moumin, Iraq
Mishkat Al Moumin was Minister of the Environment in Iraq and founded a non-governmental organization called Women and the Environment. The NGO uses education on resource management to empower rural women in Iraq, and it has trained nearly 8,000 people to manage water, sanitation and hygiene in 50 villages in the Basra, Maysan and Thi Qar provinces. This has included training women to participate in the design of their village environments, and educating village leaders on the critical role of women as users of environmental resources. “During CSW, I will emphasize the connection linking women, security, and the environment, and the fact that women are the primary users of environmental resources. It is essential to enact international and national policies that facilitate the participation of women in managing environmental resources in general and water in particular,” she says. Al Moumin will participate in a CSW side event that explores ways to support the engagement of rural women with sustainable natural resource management in conflict and fragile settings.
Nduku Kilonzo, Kenya
PhD, graduate of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, is the Executive Director of Liverpool VCT, an indigenous Kenyan organization, which provides HIV prevention and treatment services, including to women survivors of violence. The work of the organization and Dr. Kilonzo’s research have informed policy reforms in these areas and contributed to strengthening services’ provision to women survivors. She has been a technical advisor to World Health Organisation (WHO) Committees examining HIV/AIDS and violence against women, and post-rape care and support to survivors. She contributes to international fora that address gender-based violence, such as the Coordinating Group of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), and the Gender and Rights Advisory Panel of the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research.
Ibrahim Ceesay, Gambia
Ibrahim Ceesay is the Coordinator of the National Children for Children Organization (CFCO) in Gambia, which promotes gender equality and campaigns to end gender-based violence. It also advocates for laws and public policies that promote sustainable agriculture and biodiversity, especially with the participation of young women. “We work with rural women farmers and refugees, empowering them through training and capacity building programs on climate change adaptation and community-based disaster risk reduction,” explains Ceesay. By attending CSW, Ceesay hopes to gain a broader knowledge of the field, and share best practices for implementing efficient projects. He is attending the Commission as an Yvonne Hebert scholar, a scholarship programme facilitated by UN Women.
Rosy Singh, Nepal
Rosy Singh is a Communication and Planning Officer for Women for Human Rights (WHR), which advocates on issues relating to widowhood in Nepal. Created in 1994, the non-governmental organization advocates for an equitable society, in which widows can live with freedom, respect and dignity. In Nepal, the death of a husband has widespread impact on families. Children, particularly girls, often drop out of school and take on activities to help sustain the family, which can lose much of its access to basic needs, from food and clothing, to shelter and health care. “Rural widows are often excluded from income-generating activities due to a lack of skills and funds, as well as the pressures of household duties, and restrictions on mobility,” she says. “We advocate on their rights to property, inheritance and land; and access to resources, services and loans that can protect them, for example, from extreme poverty, property-grabbing, violence, abuse, and harmful cultural and traditional practices.” Thanks to advocacy by WHR and civil society there have been recent changes, says Singh, such as improved inheritance rights for widows. By attending CSW, Singh hopes to learn more about effectively implementing human rights instruments relevant to widows, and advocating at the national level. Singh is attending the Commission as an Yvonne Hebert scholar, a scholarship programme facilitated by UN Women.
Aminata Sidibé, Mali
Aminata Sidibé represents the Federation of Business and Professional Women Bamako, and is also the Secretary of the Youth Action Association for Women’s Development. “We work on awareness campaigns for women in our community on fundamental issues such as development, education, health, income-generating action, citizenship education and vocational training,” she says. Since farming is one the most important sources of income for rural women in Mali, Sidibé also focuses on activities to improve their access to micro-finance and income-generating activities. By attending CSW, Sidibé hopes to learn more about others’ efforts to improve women’s civil rights elsewhere. She is attending the Commission as an Yvonne Hebert scholar, a scholarship programme facilitated by UN Women.
Mohamed Chafiki, Morocco
As the head of the Financial Studies and Forecasting Section in Morocco’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, Mohamed Chafiki has initiated a gender budgeting report and chaired a committee on gender-responsive budgeting. As a human rights activist he has also contributed to and supported women’s movements in the country. By attending CSW he hopes to focus on “the financial crisis and its consequences, in terms of inequalities, and to find innovative development projects and equality-based budgeting ideas to empower women.” Chafiki will be attending CSW to participate in an event that focuses on national experiences in implementing the agreed conclusions of CSW 2008: Financing for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
Quazi Baby, Bangladesh
Quazi Baby is the Executive Director of the Participatory Development Action Program, promoting women’s land rights. “Through workshops, seminars, training and local dialogue and awareness-raising, the organization is working for gender equality and women’s rights in both Dhaka and rural areas,” she says. The organization works on disaster preparedness and response, housing and infrastructure. Their projects focus on working with local women who are given livelihood training and loans for income-generating activities and regular group meetings highlighting women’s rights. By attending the CSW, Baby would like to share experiences on climate change and disaster preparedness issues. She is attending the Commission as an Yvonne Hebert scholar, a scholarship programme administered by UN Women.