This is an original article written by Madeleine Banister

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is held annually in New York, at United Nations Headquarters, as an opportunity for people from all over the world, mostly from government and civil society, to get together and discuss the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The Commission was in its 63rd iteration this year, and the theme was social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. I had the privilege of attending this conference in my role as National International Secretary of Catholic Women’s League Australia.

There are side events ad parallel events that are run throughout the two-week commission. The side events are held within the UN building ad are typically organised by member states or high-level NGOs, like Amnesty International. These events are always very well run, but they tend to be quite sanitised and politicised. Alternatively, the parallel events are held outside the UN building, scattered throughout the city. These tend to be a bit of a mixed bag, but they are most often where you get real issues being discussed and more opportunities for a wide range of experiences to be heard.

As a snapshot of some of the events that can be attended, I had one particular favourite. It was a film screening which detailed the plight of female domestic workers that are being exported from Africa to the Middle East. This is a burgeoning trade, detrimental to the workers. Within the film, it depicted an industry where the human rights of women are completely ignored, and they are talked about as though they are able to be sold and traded like livestock. Learning about human rights abuses such as this not only makes me feel incredibly lucky, but also fuels me to continue to be passionate about gender equality and the rights of women. Other examples of events I experienced included hearing from survivors of the North Korean Regime, and also how women are having to be innovative in how they adapt to climate change in order to ensure the wellbeing of their families. I also had the opportunity to attend two events run by the Holy See, which were both in hot demand.

At the end of CSW, there are usually a set of Agreed Conclusions. I say ‘usually’ because the negotiating process for the conclusions generally descend into anarchy most years. It is to be expected when there are a lot of completing interests in a time limited environment. That being said, the general aim of the conclusions and the whole commission in itself, is to envisage and create actions that promote and empower women, a common goal for everyone to work towards.