One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for Youth Participation at CSW

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for Youth Participation at CSW

 

If you can’t get a seat at the table, then bring your own chair.

From the local to the global, young women leaders are well-versed in innovating participation where our voices would be otherwise be silenced or go unheard.

This spirit fuelled the CSW Youth Forum leading into the 60th Commission on the Status of Women. The CSW Youth Forum, or YouthCSW, was a youth-led safe space for over 350 young people from more than 50 countries. We gathered to weave together our collective work for a world where women’s human rights are realised and respected.  

After two days we resolved to lift the 2030 Agenda from paper and into our lives through advocacy and action. Despite barriers to young women’s involvement in UN processes, our commitment to activate communities on the 2030 journey is fuelled by the promise of growing space for youth participation.

At the culmination of YouthCSW, we declared that in 2030 we want a world where we lead gender-just implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Our Agreed Conclusions highlighted the importance of enabling environments, such as YouthCSW, in creating safe spaces for young women to meaningfully participate in and contribute to UN processes. Our full vision is outlined in the YouthCSW Declaration on Gender Equality and the Human Rights of Young Women and Girls.

While the YouthCSW forum enjoyed an encouraging level of support and enthusiasm from Civil Society Organisations and many member states this would not be reflected in the final text of the CSW60 Agreed Conclusions.  

There were moments of hope, like when Ambassador Patriota, the CSW Chair, received and disseminated the YouthCSW Declaration in the first week of CSW. This resulted in a standalone paragraph in the third draft acknowledging YouthCSW, the importance of youth participation and lending support for YouthCSW into the future. The appearance of this paragraph signalled, for a moment, that space for young people at CSW was expanding.  

However, this was short-lived.

The standalone paragraph on YouthCSW was eventually negotiated out of the Agreed Conclusions. It’s difficult to know exactly why this was or what the motivations were but what is always certain is that such spaces for young people are too often treated as expendable.

Many of the YouthCSW delegates are currently working on ways to ensure youth participation at the next CSW. As is the case with so many of the barriers we face, we will keep working to chip away.

 

We can keep bringing our own chairs, but ultimately, for inter and multigenerational leadership to prevail we need to expand and share the table.

 

By Hannah Gissane, Equality Rights Alliance and YWCA Australia rep to CSW 60