Advancing Gender Equality

The CSW62 Side Event on Advancing Gender Equality Through Community Based Organizing and Global Advocacy was a panel discussion about the role of communities in advancing women’s rights.

The panel for this event sought to understand the current best practices that community-based and grassroots organizations are implementing in dealing with women’s rights, as well as the challenges and opportunities they face in achieving gender equality in their respective communities. They explored how community level organizations are at the forefront in providing services and working directly with those for whom policies are written for they are the ones who best know what are the needs and problems within the community.

The panel stressed the importance of the community level voice in the implementation of international policies and global advocacy campaigns. CEDAW and Special Raconteurs were mentioned as examples of the effectiveness and importance of interaction between the UN and the community.


Maria Lizardo, Executive Director at Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation told us that she went to the Settlement House for help and the experience changed her life. She decided to become a social worker and later started working at the settlement house. Through her, her whole family ended up working there, being helped and helping others. She explained that economic independence is crucial and economics are a key reason why victims stay with their batterers. The settlement house gets them jobs, provides activities and deals with their housing, legal and immigration problems.

Manju Kak, Treasurer of All India Women’s Conference. She is a national advocate for women’s issues and issues of good governance. She explained that the Conference was started in 1927 and is 90 years old. They have 500 branches and reach out to offer assistance to over 200,000 women. In order to become a chairperson or hold a seat of importance in the organization, one needs to have 20 years of volunteer experience within the organization.

Antonio Cisneros de Alencar, Officer-in-Charge Office of the High Commissioner For Human Rights New York Office Equality and Non-Discrimination Section. He began by telling us that human rights begin at the local level, not at the UN. The community makes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights possible, not the other way around. At the start f the UN, the focus was on peace and security. The term Human Rights was not mentioned. The Feminist Movement was really responsible for the creation of the Declaration. The women on the committee made certain that equality and non-discrimination were part of it.

Women like Rosa Parks have led actions on the community level that led to the international level. There is a ripple effect – one single action at the community level can impact others globally. The 17 SDGs not the MDGs have impact and are about human rights because the community was consulted, not the determination of the “experts” as was the case with the MDGs.

“Leave no one behind” is a new way of focusing on inclusion of all groups.The SDGs recognize that challenges are global and need a universal strategy but it has to trickle down to the community level and include human rights.

Reported by Fran Butensky, ICJW Representative at the UN in New York