Who is in charge of women’s security?

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YWCA & WILPF Young Women discussing VAW in their own countries
Photo by Jamie Nugent

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YWCA & WILPF Panel artwork along the walls of the Chapel at CCUN
Photo by Jamie Nugent

Throughout CSW-57 we have been learning, discussing and hearing how important it is to provide peace and security to women and girls everywhere. During the Human Rights, Security, and Young Women’s panel we heard from five young women from five different places speaking about the injustices women face in their own country. Each had a different take on it due to different environments, but when it all came to together it was the same theme. The speakers came from Colombia, Palestine, Sweden, Sri Lanka, and Malawi, and each offered personal experiences in regards to violence against women and girls.

Magda Lopez of YWCA-Colombia provided insight into the lives of women in her country during conflict. She spoke of displacement and sexual violence, and that four million people have been displaced due to the present conflict. She mentioned Colombian’s are victims of sexual violence, rape, prostitution, commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), and sexual harassment which are all forms of violence against women and something that has become normalized within the country. Magda stated efforts have been made but that these crimes still persist. She asked the UN to continue to monitor violence against women in Colombia, regardless of who the perpetrators are.

Naheel Bazbazat of YWCA-Palestine talked about the roles women play in Palestinian society, and how important that role is especially in the social and economic community. She discussed how difficult life is for women living under the Israeli occupation. Some statistics Naheel shared were that 45% of Palestinians are internally displaced persons of IDPs and that there are 10 million Palestinian refugees. Naheel brought to the audiences attention about the women that were killed and homes destroyed during the 1st and 2nd Intifada’s. She talked about the mere minutes Palestinians are given to evacuate their homes and collect their belongings, being denied access to education in Jerusalem, as well as the health risks and concerns during transportation which takes much longer for Palestinians. As I am hearing this I cannot help but think about the segregation wall and what it would be like if it didn’t segregate its citizens physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Would their views towards each other be different if they weren’t forcibly separated?

Josefine Karisson of WILPF-Sweden discussed human security and posed a question stating, “who has a say on security and what does that security mean?” Josefine made a great point in asking who has a say and are they working in the best interest of the women facing these injustices? She also mentioned Resolution-1325, and how women need to be included and put into the room during these discussions working in unison. Josefine closed by stating that older women need to give space to younger women to help make our ideas and thoughts known. We need to be given the platform to help strengthen ourselves.

The next speaker, Habiba Rizaan Osman from NCA Malawi, discussed environmental concerns being a leading cause for human trafficking, which leads to violence against women. Habiba mentioned due to climate change and food scarcity individuals are moving, which then causes young women to be trafficked. Habiba also noted that selling women into labor does not only affect their physical self, but affects them psychologically and emotionally as well. Habiba closed with stating the paragraphs on human trafficking need to be stronger in order to make the crime appear harsher to future perpetrators.

The last speaker, Shymala Gomez of FOKUS Women of Sri Lanka, discussed traumatization from war and what women face in Sri Lanka. Shymala mentioned that Sri Lanka does not have an action plan on the ground and that the UN needs to make things more accessible to the grassroots organizations.

All five speakers made compelling points by giving ideas and action plans on how to reduce violence against women within their own country, as well as everywhere else. It is important to note that these instances of violence, even though committed far away, still have an impact on women everywhere.

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