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CDWD Women Leaders Recount their Experiences and Takeaways from the 68th Commission on the Status of Women

The 68th annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) – the UN's largest annual gathering on equality and women's empowerment – took place from 11 – 22 March under the priority theme, “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective”. GFoD's delegation led by CDWD women leaders from across the global regions and different regional network organizations, actively participated throughout the month. As they navigated through discussions, interventions, networking and much more, each leader emerged with invaluable insights and takeaways. Here, we delve into their journeys and the lessons they carry with them from the UN to local contexts.

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Sonu Rani Das, Bangladesh and Excluded Rights Movement (BDERM); Dalit Women Forum

Before I got a chance to participate in the 68th Commission on the Status of Women in New York, USA, I did not know much about the work of the Global Forum of (GFoD), nor was I aware that the problem of – that we so acutely face in Bangladesh and larger South Asia, is in fact a much wider issue. CSW gave me a chance to meet many people – especially inspiring CDWD women leaders; I got to participate in many discussions, network with various stakeholders, activists and government representatives who spoke about the various ways of understanding and addressing issues in their respective countries. Being exposed to this platform, interacting with fellow CDWD leaders and key stakeholders made me realize strongly that if we all come together in solidarity, our numbers will be so high – and so will be the strength of our voice. I consider myself lucky that I got to be a part of the largest platform to address the issues of women, Commission on the Status of Women. It has also made me realize the significance of such platforms that I find currently missing in my country – Bangladesh. Equipped with knowledge, strategies and solidarities, I have come back to my country with an ignited fire to create such spaces here, that collectively build a platform for women from the marginalized communities to raise their voices, to lead the movement; and to also enter the already existing spaces with much vigor, to bring the voices of CDWD – the most marginalized – to the forefront of all discussions.

Patricia Pereira Costa: The National Coordination for the Articulation of Black Rural Quilombola Communities in Brazil (CONAQ):

*Translated to English from Portuguese* 

“It's an honor to be here breaking barriers and breaking borders, in search of improvements for women. An incredible experience of being among women, I am deeply flattered representing my country through GFoD at CSW, which offers a huge space for us Quilombola women who are isolated from specific public policies for women in the field. Here is the very great possibility for everyone to establish support networks, exchange knowledge and strengthen alliances with other organizations and social movements at a global level and considering this annual meeting to be the largest in the UN on gender equality and women's empowerment. And I return to my country with a bag full of knowledge and a desire to fight even harder for our Quilombola women. This way, I will continue to improve my work in my organization CONAQ, my activism work, better promote contacts of member states and the governments of my country, expand my contact networks, to implement the conclusions agreed in the CSW and keep myself better informed of my own country's official preparations.

Talking more about CDWD women globally, they go through similar situations, as they are already part of groups, peoples, and communities in vulnerable situations, which makes the situation of these women even worse, as they are the most fragile and suffer the most. In Brazil, Quilombola women are the most impacted – 3 times more by racism and discrimination. As they are part of the most discriminated communities, they are discriminated against for being women, for being black, and for being Quilombolas.

CONAQ, despite being a mixed representative movement, has been committed to seeking improvements and confronting racism, discrimination, and violence against Quilombola women and girls. As part of this fight for rights, we created a Women's Collective to specifically take care of women's issues, which has been politically articulated locally, regionally, and globally for the recognition and realization of the rights of Quilombola women. My stay in New York was very important and I say more, it is a unique moment where I feel stronger to continue fighting for gender equality, through these participations to expand representation and enhance our voices that debate these specific issues faced by us Quilombola women. The event locations were accessible, and I felt safe at in-person events, so I participated in very important agendas and side conversations. I finish this report as a Brazilian, black woman, Quilombola, farmer, and original of the far north of the country (Amapá), I feel more powerful. This way, we know what the status of women is in other countries around the world!”

Queen Bisseng, Global Forum of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (GFoD):

As GFoD's UN Programme Specialist for , I will say participating in the CSW 68 was a great opportunity in promoting CDWD women's rights, documenting the reality of their lives throughout the world, visibIlising them, and calling for action for the recognition of their status, raising standards on gender equality, and empowering these CDWD women.

CDWD Women in Africa are known to be the most excluded, marginalized, stigmatized, segregated, and discriminated against at every level and structure of society on the sole basis of their caste, lineage, identity, descent, and occupation. Poverty among them remains a persistent challenge , rooted in historical injustices, systemic discrimination, and social stigma. Despite progress in gender equality, these communities continue to face disproportionate levels of poverty, hindering their social and economic development.

The takeaway I bring to CDWD women in Africa is to assure them that there is a growing sense of solidarity and support towards them from other communities globally:  women from Dalit, , Quilambola, and Palenque communities, as well as support from permanent missions and other stakeholders.

I will reiterate the following call for action and responsibilities:

NGOs and Civil Society Organizations: NGOs and civil society organizations should design and implement targeted interventions that address the specific needs and challenges faced by CDWD women. This includes providing education, economic empowerment, legal aid, and community mobilization initiatives tailored to the context of CDWD communities.

Government: Governments should enact and enforce policies that promote the rights and inclusion of CDWD women. This includes implementing affirmative action measures, enforcing anti-discrimination laws, and investing in social protection programs targeting marginalized communities.

Community Leaders and Organizations: Community leaders and organizations have a crucial role in challenging discriminatory practices, promoting social cohesion, and advocating for the rights of CDWD women within their communities. They can facilitate dialogue, raise awareness, and mobilize collective action to address the structural barriers that perpetuate poverty and exclusion.

International Donors and Development Agencies: International donors and development agencies should provide financial and technical support to initiatives aimed at empowering CDWD women. This includes funding projects, providing capacity-building assistance, and promoting knowledge sharing and best practices in addressing caste-based discrimination and social exclusion.

Simona Torotcoi, European Roma Grassroots Organizations (ERGO) Network; Global Forum of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent:

I had the opportunity to attend the CSW last year. Even though we had a strong delegation, we have made significant efforts to make CDWD women's concerns a priority among key stakeholders. This year, we have taken a much stronger approach: we have organized 3 events, we have met with civil society representatives, permanent missions, governmental representatives, and we brought evidence and documentation on the situation of CDWD women. This year CSW provided a unique opportunity to raise the issues of Roma women across Europe and ensure the visibility of the key challenges Roma communities face. This year CSW established an unprecedented development by having women from CDWD communities presenting in an official side event! I am hopeful that this will continue, since Permanent Missions representatives and UN agencies showed their openness to work on addressing CDWD concerns and advance our rights!

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