CSW 2010: Why This U.S. Based Feminist Gives a Damn

This week marks the kickoff of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a 2-week, woman-focused conference that takes place annually at the United Nations (UN). Basically, this means that for the next two weeks, THE principal global policy-making body will be dedicating itself exclusively to the pursuit of gender equality and the advancement of women. Pretty exciting stuff, right?!?!?

*Cricket Chirp* *Cricket Chirp*

Wait….what? You’re not falling over in your chair with excitement about this event? Come to think of it, where’s the buzz around the domestic U.S. feminist blogosphere? Shouldn’t we all be as excited about this as we are about, say, Lady Gaga? Can’t help but pull a Hanson here and ask…”Where’s the love“??? (for C-S-dubs?)

Although it’s disappointing, I’m not too surprised when I hear folks express apathy/cynicism towards the UN in general and the CSW in particular, especially since I myself have harbored those same kinds of feelings towards the UN in the past. It can seem like with all the acronyms and jargon being used, many delegates don’t want members of civil society to get involved, or that they are creating a deliberate barrier for non-UN folks to get to the content. It can also sometimes feel like the progress being made there isn’t real or important, since things. move. so. slowlyyyyyyy. sometimes.

But I’m one U.S.-based domestic feminist who is now sold on the importance of these two weeks, and I’ve worked with many international advocates who are as well.
Here’s why.

First of all, documents that come out of these meetings are often used by women on the ground to fight for their rights. Even though this year’s CSW will adopt a declaration rather than an outcome document, they will still be affirming important principles that women can use as reference points to hold their governments accountable. As a domestic advocate, I can appreciate the importance of empowering women to stand up for themselves, so I support this process for them.

Secondly, the CSW is an opportunity for U.S.-based feminists to connect with international feminists and see the intersections of their work. I can think of so many examples of women’s issues that transcend the international/national distinction, and I have truly come to believe that CSW is a fantastic opportunities for real feminist activists to come together and parse out these issues in a way that is truly beneficial for the world’s women. My experiences working on these issues at home and abroad has convinced me that systematic oppression of women comes from the same basic source, no matter where it happens, or in what cultural context. As the president of the NGO where I work pointed out at a UN event last week, “at the heart of both empowerment and equality are a person’s fundamental right and ability to control her own body including her sexuality.” I’ve found that this is true both in the United States, and abroad. So have others, like Michelle Goldberg.

Lastly, I support the CSW because it is supportive of movement building. As Jessica put it in her recent Washington Post article, “this isn’t a zero-sum game, and we can fight for our rights while fighting for women internationally as well…It’s time to do away with the either-or mentality that surrounds domestic and international women’s rights.” I completely agree, and in my eyes, the CSW is an excellent starting place for that, and it’s my hope that over the next few weeks, feminists from all corners of the globe will discover more of their shared interests, common experiences, and great shared potential.

I’ll be attending the CSW on and off for the next 2 weeks as part of my day job, and I’ll be covering the main goings on, as well as a few side events, for Feministing as best I can. You can also get updates from an international team of Inter Press Service journalists here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the next two weeks as well. Are you bored by the UN? Impressed? Intimidated? Disillusioned? Cynical? What are your hopes and expectations for this year’s CSW? Leave your impressions and experiences in comments, or just email me at Lori@feministing.com with your thoughts. And let’s together make sure this crucially important world conference on women gets the attention from U.S.-based domestic feminists it needs and deserves.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman started blogging with Feministing in 2008, and now runs partnerships and strategy as a co-Executive Director. She is also the Director of Youth Engagement at Women Deliver, where she promotes meaningful youth engagement in international development efforts, including through running the award-winning Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Lori was formerly the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and has also worked at the United Nations Foundation on the Secretary-General's flagship Every Woman Every Child initiative, and at the International Women’s Health Coalition and Human Rights Watch. As a leading voice on women’s rights issues, Lori frequently consults, speaks and publishes on feminism, activism and movement-building. A graduate of Harvard University, Lori has been named to The Root 100 list of the most influential African Americans in the United States, and to Forbes Magazine‘s list of the “30 Under 30” successful mediamakers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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