Here we are. IOGT International participating in CSW57 that started on 4th of March. The topic is Ending violence against women and girls and I can tell you, this is revolutionary! More than 6000 participants are registered for the event. Imagine the power! Imagine the momentum. 6000 minds and hearts have gathered here to end this pandemic. But before we started, the NGOs, did a little bit extra. One day prior to the CSW57, NGO CSW arranged a forum for its members to discuss, update, share, train and inspire.
What made me extremely glad (having on mind the heavy topic) was to hear, that some of the presenters mentioned alcohol use in their stories about preventing violence against women. South African Bafana Khumalo (co-funder of Sonke – Gender justice network) mentioned alcohol prevention as one of the points in their 10 steps programme of ending violence against women.
I also wanted to go and hug Lakshmi Puri (Assistant Secretary General for Intergovernmental support and strategic partnerships UN Women) when she said she won’t conform to the norms that perpetuate gender inequality. I was thinking: “Adios alcohol norm!”
Each of those moments made my heart jump a little.
My heart sank a little when I participated this morning in the introduction for new NGOs to CSW. We got to hear the impressive history about the beginnings of CSW, about all the processes and negotiations for women putting women’s right into focus. I hear now some voices chirping that both men and women are human beings and there should not be a separate category for one of the two created and lifted as that just powers differentiation. And I think: I wish that was the biggest problem to solve. The reality shows that women undergo lots of suffering just because of their gender: started with female organ mutilation, through child marriage, to rape and femmicide. So listening to the history and understanding how many years of effort it has taken to women to come to the point where we stand now I was thankful to all those that have been speaking out for women’s rights that I could sit here just about to take off to enter the governmental discussions on how to make it even better, because we are not there yet. And what made my heart sink? Not the history but the practical reality of the processes in the United Nations. We were advised by Leslie Wright, the past chair of NGO CSW, among other tips, not to sit on the delegates’ seats. She stressed it several times. Do not take delegates’ seats! Gosh is that really that serious? Aren’t the delegates elected by us – the civil society? Aren’t they our voice? So what would happen if someone just by a mistake would take their seat? Most probably nothing except of being kindly asked to move. I hope! Why do we – ourselves create such a huge distance between “authorities” by the way we talk about them and treat them? Yeah then I felt that besides the mind-set of men – a concept taken up very often during these two days in connection to ending violence against women and girls, we need to change our own mind-set as well and stop feeling inferior to anyone because of gender, age, occupation, country of origin or social status.
To be able to enter the government events, side events or the parallel events we had to get our ground passes. It took us two hours to queue for them but in the end we made it and we were in ready to start. For the beginning we picked csw session – High-level event – roundtable on Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls to hear what was done by the participating governments to end the violence against women. Three hours of presentations of the situation and measures (intersectoral approach, improvements of institutional response, law enforcement, act globally through campaigns, short- and long-term services for the survivors, zero tolerance to violence against women and girls) taken by the countries just helped me realize the importance of NGOs, not less the importance of the work of IOGT International and all our members and partners. At the moment, there is a major focus put on tertiary prevention – easing the harm, taking care of survivors of violence. Which I consider incredibly important and I believe the countries feel the urge to fix the wound that hurts the most. At the same time, if we want to eliminate the violence against women and girls, we need to look at the cause – which is the status of women and the power relations between men and women. If we manage to challenge those, we might win this battle. Several countries were mentioning involvement of men in the solution. Challenging the concept of masculinity as the term for toughness, roughness, lack of emotion, sympathy, and empathy. Alcohol culture promoting macho-culture serves just like an oil to the fire and that is why I was pleased to hear at least from two countries (Uganda and South Africa) that they take alcohol use into consideration when preventing violence against women. So IOGT International is not standing alone on that which was a great insight. Let’s see what discoveries the coming days bring…
Ah btw our booklet “Alcohol culture in gender zoom” is very popular and I am afraid we have not brought enough of them…