As I prepare to attend the 53rd Session on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York, I have been reflecting the progress of the international community in regards to gender. One of the most encouraging developments is that we have finally moved the argument for gender equity and rights from an emotional standpoint to one based on the facts.
Because of this shift in approach, issues of gender equality finally have international attention and even the possibility of resources- but do we (the UN Interagency and NGO community) have the crucial infrastructure and capacity to manage that? And in the case that we are simply creating that capacity as we go along- are we doing so effectively? A case study of this is present in the Democratic Republic of Congo- where dynamic civil society initiatives have built attention and outrage over the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war, only to have bureaucratic stopgaps thwart the dramatic international outpouring of resource support for women.
I have just returned from the DRC where I had a front row seat to these challenges. Before that time, I contributed to the effort to bring security to women, through assisting with the passage of SR 1820- a condemnation of those who use rape as a tool of war. I am very excited for my first CSW as I keep thinking (hoping) that there must be a better way than it is done now- hopefully one grounded in policy reform.
The Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR Campaign) could be the very reform effort I yearn for. GEAR is comprised of 275 organizations in more than 50 countries and is focused on the systematic reform of the United Nations Gender apparatus. This includes leadership at the highest levels, integration of agencies, proper funding and development for women and gender issues, and presence of women on the ground (I recently considered this final task in a piece that encouraged the United States to send more women to peacekeeping missions in countries like the DRC where sexual harassment and rape are rampant.) These questions must be considered in order for the United Nations to address women's issues in a systematic and effective manner (which it is not at this time able to do.)
Recent years have provided us with better research and tools to generate more effective advocacy and campaign programs for engendering equality. However, we have reached a critical impasse in steering those programs. The key to doing so lies in the development of crucial infrastructure through creative and continuous reform. I look forward to updating you on the progress of these and vital issues from the 53rd annual CSW.