Focusing on decent work for rural women, quality public services, social protection and human rights, the trade union delegation, led by Education International (EI), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the International Union of Food Workers (IUF), and Public Services International (PSI), called on governments to ensure that all women enjoy opportunities for economic, social and human development.
Learning from the veterans of CSW sessions
I attended the 56th UNCSW Session as the Chair of the Women’s Committee of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) from the Philippines, chosen as one of the four sponsored participants at this meeting. The international trade union delegation, representing 70 million women workers worldwide and 25 countries, was composed of a good mix of sisters who have been raising women unionists’ voices at the UNCSW since 2000. About one-third of us were first-time attendees.
I volunteered for the drafting team. Sisters from Canada, Sweden and the USA, with previous experience in proposing amendments to draft “Agreed Conclusions” at past UNCSW sessions, facilitated the process.
Our core messages – labour protection and decent work, strengthening of public services, including quality education at all levels – became the main trade union delegation’s lobbying points brought to the official session, side events and parallel events and in talks with governmental and non-governmental (NGO) representatives during the UNCSW meeting.
Reflections on UNCSW experience
The key elements for my fruitful first-time engagement in a UNCSW session included the advance joint preparations made by the international trade union organisations; bringing trade union concerns into the draft “Agreed Conclusions”; the prior orientation session, the daily early morning briefings and debriefings prior to attending various meetings; the working group on communication who provided updated news to all unionists and allies, the lobby group reached more than 50 countries in their efforts, and the patience shown by the experienced delegation members to the new ones.
I found the international trade union delegation’s criticism of governments’ reduction of public investment for education, health, and other social services, significant. This furthermore represents a critique of the market-driven development of the neo-liberal globalisation which underpins the financial and economic crises we continue to experience.
The 2013 UNCSW 57 priority theme is the “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”. Next year’s delegation will emphasise successful trade union practices and equality measures already negotiated and won.
Presentation at an official meeting
Prior to coming to New York, I had been told by a colleague in the Asia-Pacific women’s movement that UNCSW meetings are centred on government delegates’ sessions and inputs. Only a limited space is provided to NGO delegates.
I was able to intervene on 1 March to Panel 3 of the official session, discussing “Evaluation of progress in the implementation of the agreed conclusions of CSW 52 on “Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women: national experiences in implementing the agreed conclusions of CSW 52”. I carried the message that education and decent work are key elements in women’s empowerment, particularly rural women’s empowerment. Nevertheless, without sufficient public investment in education and health, and without economic development providing decent work and land for women, women’s empowerment will remain mere tokenism.