By Danielle Marse-Kapr
Senior Advocacy and Policy Associate
This week, I had the honor of attending the 58th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). While the CSW occurs over the course of two weeks, NGOs from around the world lobby their representatives in support of the issues most impacting the women they represent. And, while the CSW debates these points, NGOs plan “side events” where they gather to discuss women’s issues from every perspective – safety, poverty, health, political rights, etc.
As I attended side events and heard perspectives from women who had traveled from seemingly every corner of the world, I noticed one prominent theme: women and the NGOs who work with them are incredibly creative at working within and around systems that do not meet their needs. Here are a few of the innovative solutions I heard for empowering women and girls in challenging environments:
- When girls were kept out of secondary school by their parents, who were concerned for their safety during a lengthy walk to school, a program was created to allow families to rent bicycles so the girls could cycle to school together – increasing safety.
- When schools were not commutable for rural communities, education programs were set up close to home so that girls could continue their education.
- In communities where sexual and reproductive health and safety topics were taboo, doctors and advocates worked to overcome taboos by talking with women directly and working with influential religious leaders.
- When girls were the first in their families to access secondary education and higher, advocates found that including parents in discussions about the opportunities education creates helped to ensure support at home.
These are only a small sampling of the brilliant work women and advocates around the world are doing to promote gender equality. YWCAs in the United States and abroad are no different – they work against the odds, with limited resources, in communities that may have little desire to change and move toward equality.
At a time where 1 in 4 women in the US will be the victim of gendered violence, when sequestration cuts threaten our ability to provide critical direct service, and when women and their families are torn apart by racially-driven immigration policies, the YWCA USA and YWCA’s across the United States stand in solidarity with our sisters around the world in the fight for gender equality.
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