“There is need to provide more information about how individuals and organisations can know more about the UN Commission on the Status of Women, as well as participate in the local processes leading to it,” said Lucy Mazingi, director of the Youth Empowerment Trust. Mazingi and fellow activist Grace Chirenje were panellists at a Food for Thought session organised by the by the Zimbabwe United States Alumni Association (ZUSAA) and the U.S. Embassy.
The two young women activists talked about their first visit to the UN women's summit, February 27 to March 9 this year. Their participation was funded by the U.S. Embassy with the aim of increasing understanding of the summit and its goals among young women in Zimbabwe. The two women, who are members of ZUSAA, called for increased involvement of youth and rural women in these summits as a way of holding government to account for the protection of women's rights.
“Ever since we started being active in the women's movement, we used to associate the CSW with the directors of big women's organizations, as they were the only ones who would attend the international summit,” said Mazingi, who is also deputy chairperson of the Students and Youth Working on the Reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT).
“We need to unpack the CSW and come up with an orientation manual for all Zimbabwean women, young and old, rural and urban, rather than what is currently available on their website,” said Chirenje, coordinator of the Young Women's Network for Peace Building.
Mazingi and Chirenje committed themselves to making information available on the summit and its importance as a way of promoting an inclusive process to build awareness and respect for women's rights in Zimbabwe.
They hailed the CSW and its 2012 theme as relevant to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on the eradication of poverty and hunger. Testimonies given by participating countries pointed to the marginalisation of the women in the rural areas (indigenous women) as sharing the same experiences. The women said the meeting was an opportunity to challenge their government on the way it is addressing the needs of the majority of the citizens in Zimbabwe.
The Commission on the Status of Women is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women. Every year, government representatives gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide.
This year's theme focused on the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges. Zimbabwean participants included legislators, senior government officials and representatives of civil society organisations.