CSW59 Beijing+20

Day 1: Opening session

The first day is less of a hustle than it has been before. Everything is a little more familiar and it helps that I don’t have to queue up to get my pass.

The conference itself is organized into three types of events:

The official meetings, of which we, as NGO delegates have access to live webcast viewings. Side events organized by country delegations and organizations such as UNWomen, World Bank etc and lastly, parallel events that are organized by NGO partners. All events have certain themes – mostly responding to how far we have come since Beijing and how far we need to go - there is never enough time to go to everything so you choose a few. Last time I mostly attended parallel events because I wanted to explore, but this year I’ve been trying to learn learn learn so I’m focusing more on region; asia pacific (trying to make Australia home here!) and specifically on how we go forward from here. That is where I want to plug in. Be a part of the solution. 

On the first day after looking through all the events of the day I decided I wanted in on the official meetings so I decided to sit through the opening session. 

Conference Room 4.

Snippets from the Opening Session;

The conference is a celebration of all that has happened to progress gender equality – “Since the Beijing Conference, more girls have attained more access to more education than ever before. Maternal mortality has been almost halved. More women are leading businesses, governments and global organizations” (Secretary General Ban) but we acknowledge that we are not there yet. Therefore, the way forward is to commit to continuing with the struggle. The aim here is, “in 2030 we want to be able to talk about a world that has achieved gender equality” said, UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (who is officially my hero and inspiration) and it is not just women who must do this, men must partner with them. “Men and boys are vital in ending unequal pay, saying no to marrying children, and fighting global epidemic of violence against women. It's important to promote “positive masculinity,” she said. 

Listen to her whole speech here.


"Women bear the burden and pay the price but they are not just the victims. They are agents of change. They are the best drivers of hope, buffer against the radicalization of the youth."

"Truly powerful men are those who believe in and work to empower women"

There are still 5 countries where no women are in parliament, 8 countries where no women are cabinet members.

"We must not leave any woman behind. There needs to be a 50:50 ratio of men and women in all spheres by 2030 because if we do not allow the 50 percent of our population to realize their potential we cannot advance."

"Too often, leaders have used women to advance their own power. Now we must use our power to advance women." 

Ban Ki Moon Secretary General UN


"Gender dimension begins in our heads" 

Pascale BoistardFrench Minister 


"We must resolve to finish the unfinished business of the Beijing conference." 

Helen ClarkAdministrator of UNDP

Read her full speech here. 


Lydia Alpizar, ED at AWID  was insistent that 20 years later we cannot go back to Beijing. She stated that the political text of the Beijing Platform is weak and needs changing. We, as women deserve better and all people must put aside their religious, gender and political bias to recognize and advance gender justice. In the famous words of Hillary Clinton again and again; human rights are womens rights and womens rights are human rights, first coined at the Beijing Conference in 1995.

She stressed that:

We must allocate financial resources to this cause to implement programs to make gender quality a priority.

We must ensure the centrality of Human rights in all aspects of governance.

There must be no trade-off of sexual rights in government tradeoffs.

We must not let culture and tradition be the basis for delay, or justification of perpetuating gender inequality.

We must not let the call to religion form the basis for violating and discriminating against the rights of women.

We must make the state accountability essential to further gender justice.

We must integrate language the protects Women HR Defenders which was previously removed from the declaration.


Our message must be to refuse to be ignored, and minimized.

Why? because the time is now, the fight continues.



The Beijing Review tells us:

  1. We need action and renewed political commitment
  2. We must look beyond averages
  3. Human rights are interdependent and indivisible
  4. We must address the mindset that perpetuates inequality and violence

So, on September 15th 1995 at 4:45am when the final consensus was reached on the Beijing Platform, I am told, the air had a euphoria in it. There were 50,00 people who attended the conference at the NGO forum. As I take a moment to sit back, and witness all of this, I know, in 15 years – at the time of 2030, I too will look back to today, and say, wow, that was also a historic moment.

The road is long ahead, but I know I want to be a part of it. Not on the sidelines. At the forefront. Here’s to finding the ways in which to be involved, one fight at a time.


 Empowering women, empowers nations. This is an investment in our planets well being.

What is csw59 + what are we doing here?

Csw59 Beijing+20

The year 2015 marks a significant milestone – the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – which is the focus of the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59). At the annual high-level gathering, taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 9-20 March 2015, global leaders and activists will take stock of progress and remaining challenges for implementing this landmark agreement for gender equality and women's rights. States drafting the Declaration in 1995, identified 12 areas of concern all of which are still relevant challenges today.

The 12 areas of concern; read more about them here.

The 12 areas of concern; read more about them here.

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, UN Women launched a global campaign in 2014 titled "Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture It", to reignite the urgency behind the Beijing call and galvanize a new generation to address gender equality issues. In the lead-up to the session, a record-breaking 166 countries have also undertaken national reviews on the status of women, and rich contributors from civil society have been generated. These reviews, coupled with the UN Secretary-General's report on Beijing implementation, will be a central focus of CSW59, where leaders will review progress and formulate concrete recommendations to step up their efforts to ensure gender equality and women's empowerment touches the lives of all women and girls worldwide.

Every year, CSW attracts thousands of NGO members and hundreds of country representatives from around the world to discuss critical issues for women, galvanize attention and spur action. Setting a new record this year, more than 1,100 NGOs and a total of 8,600 representatives have registered to participate.

For more information check the CSW59 Website



What was Beijing 1995?

“The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 is a visionary agenda for the empowerment of women. It still remains today the most comprehensive global policy framework and blueprint for action, and is a current source of guidance and inspiration to realize gender equality and the human rights of women and girls, everywhere.

This landmark text was the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, in September 1995. After two weeks of political debate, exchange of information on good practice and lessons learned, and sharing of experiences, representatives of 189 Governments agreed to commitments that were unprecedented in scope. More than 30,000 people also participated in the Forum of non-governmental organizations in Huairou, a unique space of advocacy, networking, training and knowledge sharing."

Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General.

Summary of the report can be found here.





CSW59 Political Declaration

Usually this document is released at the end of the 2 week session, however this year, the Political Declaration was signed on the first day and has identified 6 specific strategies for gender equality by 2030: 

  1. Do more to strengthen implementation of laws; 
  2. Bolster institutions vital to women’s empowerment; 
  3. Transform discriminatory norms and stereotypes; 
  4. Close resource gaps; 
  5. Boost accountability; 
  6. And enhance capacities and data to track progress


Other documents:

The Review and Appraisal key messages

Asia Pacific Responses

Statement by the International Alliance of Women (The organization I am representing)

"Accountability refers to the obligation of those in authority to take responsibility for their actions, to answer for them to those that are affected and to be subjected to some form of sanctions if their conduct or explanation is found wanting.

Accountability is about empowering people in particular women to articulate their priorities while taking more control over their lives. Accountability is about monitoring the effectiveness of local national, regional as well as international policies and providing data to improve the policies.

The International Alliance of Women will work for the adoption and implementation of participatory monitoring and accountability mechanisms that will make possible the fulfilment of promises held in the Beijing Platform for Action and the post-2015 Development Agenda hoping that this time commitments by duty bearers will prove credible."

Commission on the Status of Women 59: Beijing +20

September 2002: 

I first entered the UN building when I was 11 with my mother who was speaking about “Surviving on the Edge of Conflict” on the first anniversary of 9/11. I remember only big corridors, Kofi Anan, vending machines with ice cream and crips which were all new to me. I was shy to smile at the camera and the general assembly room is still a vague recollection.

March 2013: Commission on the Status of Women 57: 

Two years ago I entered again. This time with official documents inviting me to attend CSW57; in hopes of reaching a consensus on how to end violence against women and girls. I was a junior at Brown. I was looking for something to explore. Some sort of calling. Still shy in front of the camera I felt out of place. A young delegate walking those big corridors in my unapologetic Pakistan clothes. I was a fly in the wall for almost all the events, but from 8am-8pm every day I absorbed everything I could. I learnt about, and fell in love with the idea of making change as a woman. For the first time I was empowered to take ownership of my body, of my narrative and how to use it best as an agent of change. Those 2 weeks in NYC took a toll on my midterm grades, but were instrumental in bringing me closer to understanding the kind of work that drove me to an impassioned madness. It was, in a sense the beginning of my journey.

March 2015: Commission on the Status of Women 59 – Beijing +20: 

A year out of college, I am back in New York. It is much colder but the halls don’t feel as big, everything is a little less intimidating. I don’t have to get my picture, they have the badges ready for those who have been before. There are 1,100 registered NGO’s. The whole arena swarming with activists and artists and policymakers and lawyers. It is exciting, and frustrating. There is so much to learn still but this time I have the confidence; I know what I want to get out of these 2 weeks. The issues are no longer concepts but problems I have witnessed. I can speak of them first hand. That makes a difference. It means I am not a fly on the wall anymore, but an active participant. It means, this time around the opening session in the General Assembly is not a vague recollection. I am in the process of creating history, just like my mother in 2002, just like my grandmother at the first Beijing conference in 1995. This makes me feel so privileged and humbled all at the same - that I get to be here, and engage and then take that back and use it to learn even more.

As always, I will only speak of which I know best in the hope to share this experience with everyone.



A word about Lucky Llama

At my first CSW I was so nervous, my friend told me to take along this Lucky Llama he had gotten me from his travels in South America for good luck. I don't believe in totems, but this llama definitely became a fixture at the conference. He's back again this year - and will be posing at various locations so at the 2030 review of this session, he can claim to have witnessed change makers push to upset the status quo!