Strengthening Pacific Participation at CSW60

L-R: Ms Anne Kautu, Senior Women’s Development Officer from Kiribati, in conversation with Ms Pula Toaka, National Coordinator of the Tuvalu National Council of Women, and other colleagues at the CSW60 preparatory meeting. Photo: Shazia Usman, Pacific Women Support Unit.

A common purpose, solidarity, genuine partnerships, collaboration, strategic lobbying, addressing adaptive challenges and mobilising support were some of the key issues discussed at a meeting of Pacific governments, civil society representatives and human rights activists in Fiji from 25-29 February.

The preparatory meeting was a collaborative effort by Pacific Women, the Pacific Leadership Program (PLP), UN Women, NGO CSW and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, to support the 25 participants in their preparations to advocate for the rights of the empowerment of Pacific women and girls at the Commission on the Status of Women’s 60th (CSW60) meeting in New York, held 14 to 24 March 2016.

During the four day preparatory meeting, participants (including those who would attend CSW in New York and those who would support the process from their home countries) were familiarised with the CSW process. Particular attention was given to discussing strategic ways of engaging in the negotiation process, including the importance of working strategically to mobilise change on key issues.

Participants found it helpful to hear from colleagues who had previously attended CSW, candidly sharing their experiences and offering tips, which ranged from the importance of negotiating language from national and regional perspectives and holding daily debriefing sessions to dealing with the cold weather.

A key aspect of the meeting was the introduction of adaptive leadership concepts to participants. In July last year, Pacific Women and PLP held a pilot adaptive leadership training with gender equality advocates from Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa. Similar to the pilot training participants, regional participants at the preparatory meeting found that the adaptive leadership framework made them reflect on their own leadership style. The framework tools helped create a space for people to address difficult issues and openly discuss what genuine solidarity looks like. It also helped start the discussion on refining the group’s common purpose, as they prepared for CSW.

Some of the participants reflected on their participation at the meeting:

Ms Pauline Soaki, Solomon Islands, Director, Women’s Development Division within the Ministry for Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs: “Coming here and engaging in all the discussions – it’s quite a different kind of preparatory session to what I expected. I thought it would more of an information session on CSW but they really showed us the reality of what we will actually be doing when we are there. I also liked the discussions around solidarity – what does it really mean having that one voice on issues that are important to the Pacific. The discussions have helped define my purpose at CSW.” This was Ms Soaki’s first attendance at CSW.

Ms Anne Kautu, Kiribati, Senior Women’s Development Officer heading the Women’s Development Division within the Ministry of Women, Youth and Social Affairs: “I used to see leadership in a different way but going through the adaptive leadership training has made me think about finding that one voice. I am responsible for drafting the national statement and this has helped me greatly in bringing forth our issues and priorities.” Ms Kautu was at CSW in 2013 and 2015.

Ms Lanieta Tuimabu, Fiji, Office Manager, Fiji Disabled People’s Federation and Women’s Committee member for the Pacific Disability Forum in Fiji: “These four days have been very helpful because I had very limited knowledge on CSW and its processes. One of my main focus at the meeting was to create awareness around the violence and sexual abuse women with disabilities face. What we learnt here is not just for CSW but also when we lobby with our own governments.” This was Ms Tuimabu’s first CSW participation.

Ms Cherelle Fruean, Samoa, Pacific Advisory Committee member for FRIDA: The Young Feminist Fund: “This pre-CSW prep meeting was an amazing experience for me! I wish I had attended one before my first CSW. CSW is a very intense meeting and can be very overwhelming. The prep meeting was a great way of introducing everyone to these concepts beforehand and also a great way of strengthening our relationships within the Pacific delegation at CSW.” Ms Fruean attended the 2014 and 2015 CSW.