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CSW 57 holds annual session on violence against women and girls

CSW 57 holds annual session on violence against women and girls

The 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 57) commenced Monday at the UN Headquarters in New York.  (Photo-l-r:  WILPF-Nigeria President Joy Onyesoh, PeaceWomen Director Maria Butler and WILPF International Consultant Barbro Svedberg)

A delegation of over 70 women from around the world participating in meetings and many events from March 4 -15, 2013

At Monday’s commencement, CSW 57 Chair Ambassador Marjon V. Kamara of Liberia said that during its two-week session, the Commission would examine ways for more effectively preventing violence against women and girls and ensure that action is taken on the ground to create real change in women’s lives.

“We have assembled here with a clear mandate to create a world where gender equality is never in question and discrimination and violence against women and girls are a thing of the past,” she said.

The two – week CSW 57 session start four days after the United States House of Congress approved the renewal of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization (VAWA) Act – which assists victims of domestic and sexual violence – sending the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature.  The reauthorization means that for another five years, VAWA will be provided with $659 million for various programs targeting domestic violence.

During a phone interview Thursday from her office in Manhattan, New York Maria Butler PeaceWomen Project Director, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) stressed PeaceWomen’s key message at this year’s annual “is to prevent violence against women, WILPF argues that we must challenge militarization and the roots causes of war and the continuum of violence and invest in holistic sustainable equal peace.”

Ms Butler postulates “the militarization and cultures of militarism exacerbate gender roles and enable violence against women by reinforcing patriarchal control and power.”  She steadfastly maintains WILPF’s position which she categorized as the oldest grassroots women’s peace organization in the world with sections in 40countries and members around the world is based on integrated approach to human security: the combination of disarmament, human rights, and the women-peace-security (WPS) agenda.

She also referenced WILPF official statement on CSW 57 priority theme of “violence against women is a manifestation of the workings of power. The two are intrinsically linked and are experienced through both direct physical coercion and the material basis of relationships that govern the distribution and use of resources, privileges and authority within the home and society. Such dynamics shape the institutional and ideological formations of society and hence dictate gender norms, relations, and identity…”

UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) estimates a high 70 percentile rate of women in some countries experience physical and sexual violence in their lifetime.  According to UN Women, violence by intimate partners accounts for 40 to 70 per cent of female murder victims in countries including Canada, US, Australia, South Africa and Israel.

The following countries are represented by members/partners at CSW 57: People’s Democratic Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Colombia, UK, US, Sweden, Canada, Japan, Australia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Morocco, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Nigeria and international staff.

Joy Ada Onyesoh is President of Nigeria’s WILPF since 2008.  She is currently in New York representing Nigeria as a convener at CSW57.  In a statement issued Sunday via email Mrs. Onyesoh said gender stereotypes and inequality is still a crushing issue in Nigeria, the government needs to domesticate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Nigeria, after over 20 years of ratification, yet they have refused to make it a legal instrument in Nigeria. “This is a clear indication of their unwillingness to create an enabling environment for gender equality to flourish in Nigeria,” she added

Nigeria has an approximately 80.2 million, more women and girls than any other African country and ranks 118 of 134 countries in the Gender Equality Index.

A 2012 Gender in Nigeria report shows gender inequality is at highly worrying level with 60-79% of the rural workforce is women but men are five times more likely to own land. In eight Northern states, over 80% of women are unable to read compared with 54% for men.  70.8% of young women aged 20-29 in the North-West are unable to read and write and only 3% of females complete secondary school in the northern zones.

Still, Mrs. Onyesoh noted that though there has been increased dialogue and more inclusive policies on women’s human rights and a broad range of issues there is still a vast gap between words and action in Nigeria. “Meaningful and sustained engagement will not happen if government and development partners only talk about the importance of women’s empowerment rather there must be a focus on creating an enabling environment for implementation to become a reality in Nigeria.”

Mrs. Onyesoh will be speaking Tuesday, 5 March at 2.30pm on Violence Against Women: The lethal consequences of arms and on Wednesday at 2.30 pm on The Effect of War and Terrorism on Women and Children both events will be held at the UN Church Center in New York City.

 A special launch of WILPF 100 year Campaign will be observed on International Women’s Day Friday, March 8 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

By Dennis Kabatto

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