Union women head to the UN to demand equality and justice around the world

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Lisa Kelly is part of an international delegation of trade union women leaders attending the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW59), taking place in New York from March 9-20 2015. The session marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – signed onto by governments who committed to action on a number of issues related to women and girls including violence, poverty, education and training, power and decision making and many other areas.

The trade union delegation is in attendance to try to influence the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, with the inclusion of women’s rights and will urge governments to take bold and immediate steps to deliver on the implementation of the Beijing platform for action. 

Unifor has joined with 1000 other women's and human rights groups decrying the inadequacy of the new declaration that governments are signing onto during this session.

Here is Lisa Kelly’s first blog from the UN:

What a great experience to take part in an International Women’s Day march in New York City.  Of course, New York City was the site of early large marches of working women including after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire – a fire that killed 146 garment workers, most of whom were immigrant women and children.  Working women have always been at the forefront of agitating for change.  I was among the trade union delegation and we were there to be feisty!

Today’s march through the streets of New York City was a mixed experience.  On the one hand, the sheer numbers were an amazing show of women’s power and the support that men pledge for women’s equality. On the other hand, it was not as radical, not as high energy, not as agitating as I expected it to be.

Maybe this is a parallel to the political declaration that is expected to be signed on March 9 by governments at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).  This declaration marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  By all accounts, this political declaration commits to the status quo, lacks innovation or progress and reflects the parade route today: a march that ended by taking participants around a block and then turned us back in the same direction.

As we neared the end of today’s march, there were metal barriers around three sides. We overheard a police officer say to the crowd that we were supposed to enter into the pen.  I don’t want to be penned in!  I don’t want my rights to stagnate and not progress.

It has been 20 years since the Beijing Declaration.  We knew our goals and aims then and commitments were made.  Why haven’t we achieved more?  Why are we expecting a “status quo” declaration to come out of these events? And the real question - are women just going to accept walking into the pen?