I attended the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women’s (CSW) annual meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, earlier this spring. It was held, fittingly, during Women’s History Month in March.
It was the 60th session of the commission, which included dozens of presentations and breakout sessions over a two week period. This year’s themes were women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development and the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
The commission discussed the need for empowering women in leadership and decision-making positions, assuring all possible measures be taken to address sexual and gender-based violence, recognizing the integral relationship between a healthy environment and human rights, and ensuring protections for human rights defenders.
I attended the event as one of a handful of delegates for the San Francisco-based NGO called the Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN). My official role was to attend sessions and help WIN develop recommendations to share with local government officials and NGOs.
WIN’s recommendations to CSW included making multinational corporations more responsible for upholding the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which seeks to ‘make the global local’ by creating a framework for the improvement of the status of women and girls in villages, towns, and cities. One recommendation included creating a social media hastag, and eventually a broader campaign that promotes “Companies for CEDAW.” While international law does not apply to corporations generally, encouraging companies to adopt the rights guidelines outlined in the treaty on their own is a strong step towards improving women’s lives throughout the world and strengthening corporate social responsibility.
Keeping with the goal of this year’s CSW to promote better use of technology to improve the welfare of women and girls, WIN co-sponsored a panel with local Bay Area organization FemResources about the possibility of creating apps that help refugee girls stay connected with friends and family and provide them with information about available support services
A pipeline to jobs and internships for International Studies students
(want to become one? Check us out at: https://www.usfca.edu/arts-sciences/undergraduate-programs/international-studies)
In addition to representing WIN, I attended CSW to cultivate relationships that will benefit our students here at USF. As chair of the International Studies Department one of my primary goals is to build an extensive network of contacts for our students, which can help them with internships and careers after graduation. For example, I spent time speaking with one of the U.S. delegates representing the U.S. Department of Justice and her intern about the internship program through the DOJ and how the intern was finding her experience as well as representatives of the government of New Zealand on opportunities they may offer. I also met representatives of organizations such as MamaHope, the Alliance for Girls, The 50 Women Project, and the U.S. Department of Labor — all of which may be potential internship sites for students.
Many students in our undergraduate International Studies and interdisciplinary Master’s in International Studies programs are interested in working with NGOs in the fields of human rights, women’s rights, sustainable development, and education. We also have students who hope to go on to careers in the foreign service or work for intergovernmental organizations like the UN. I was able to connect with individuals from organizations around the world and build networks that could be beneficial for my research on the development and use of international law to provide better human rights and environmental protections within states in which USF students are involved.
Leading in San Francisco
A primary focus of my work with WIN is to connect USFers to San Francisco and the Cities for CEDAW campaign. San Francisco was the first city in the U.S. to adopt the principles of CEDAW and is a leader in the campaign. Ultimately, I hope to incorporate elements of the campaign into my classes, having students work on advocacy plans to encourage other cities and the nation to adopt CEDAW. This is particularly important as the U.S. is the only industrialized country, and one of only six countries worldwide, that have not yet ratified CEDAW (the other five being Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga).
During my time in New York, I spoke with other professors who, as part of their classes, bring students to CSW every year. My goal is to develop and fund a program so that USF students are able to experience CSW for themselves and actively engage with leaders from around the world on issues that are important to them.
It is one of the cornerstones of a USF education to engage with diverse communities from around the world to make change for the better. While an imperfect organization, the UN is one of the primary fora we have for true global discussion of issues that matter — both at home and abroad. Every time I attend, I am struck by the number of people there are in the world striving everyday to achieve justice and a better life for all. I hope to impart that to my students during their time at USF in the same way my colleagues and friends at CSW impart it to me.