Partnership among women groups will be key to SDG implementation


Perspective from the CSW 61 in icy New York


Emilia Sáiz

As I write, the UCLG Women delegation to the 61st UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York has been frozen to an uncharacteristic halt, thanks to the descent of Storm Stella on the city.

A great opportunity to stop and reflect with the UCLG team on the sessions UCLG Women organized yesterday; a rare opportunity believe me! 


New York is sadder place with a closed UN, without the dozens of languages spoken there and the ideas in debate. The world would also be a sadder place without a strong multilateral system, which mobilizes not only the member-states, but also civil society and all other partners.

The UN at the time of the Commission on the Status of Women is really a sight to be seen!  

Today, however, the UCLG team is watching Mayor Bill De Blasio relay information on the blizzard to citizens on the local TV news. We were struck by his emphasis on collaboration and solidarity as the means for the city to deal with the state of emergency. Yes, the city’s sanitation department would work to clear the roads, but citizens should also play their part by avoiding driving and by checking in on their vulnerable neighbors, he said. He also made his declarations in Spanish, making sure that this important part of the New York population would get the news first hand.

It is this kind of embrace of diversity and collaboration between local government and civil society, at both local and global level, that will be essential to the achievement of the global agendas that we have developed together as humanity. This was a message that came through loud and clear at both events organized by UCLG on the first day of the CSW yesterday. It was also clear that women have a key role to play in the pursuit of sustainable development, and that we must take into account their needs at all stages of life. For this reason, it was particularly gratifying to see a large delegation of young people at our side-event on women for sustainable development in Africa, and to be accompanied by Katherine Klein, representing the older persons constituent group, throughout the day.

Of course, the partnership between local government and civil society organizations is nothing new. At the special event on the role of locally elected women in the achievement of the SDGs, President of the General Assembly of Partners (GAP), Eugenie Birch and I both highlighted the role of our joint advocacy work in getting key concepts such as the ‘Right to the City’ included in the New Urban Agenda. At global level, the goals of civil society and local and regional governments - democracy, participation, increased local financing, the protection of human rights - are often closely aligned. Making sure the partnership carries on as legacy of Habitat III is something that is worth ensuring and working for in the coming period.

Now the 2030 Agenda is in force, it is vital that local governments and civil society build on our longstanding partnerships to support the achievement of the SDGs. We are convinced that a prerequisite for the achievement of the SDGs is putting in place the framework provided by the Habitat III outcome document. Ana Moreno from the Habitat III Secretariat was right in saying you achieve the SDGs but you implement the NUA.  
Our world organization is currently redefining its priorities to become fit for purpose to deliver on the objectives that we have defended during the international negotiations, the strength and involvement of women in this endeavor will be key.
We need to make women in our communities both subject of our work and the ambassadors for what we stand for. The political leaders of UCLG’s Standing Committee on Gender Equality, UCLG WOMEN, are our continued inspiration and driving force.
We need to get our priorities right. The SDGs are to women’s empowerment what women are to the sustainability of the planet.  
Global networks of local government and civil society both do essential work in raising awareness about the SDGs on the ground, in showing the connections between those global objectives and the day to day reality at local level, as Under Secretary General of the United Nations for Communication and Public Information, Cristina Gallach, encouraged us to continue to do yesterday.
Going beyond communication, the Habitat for Humanity  Solid Ground’ campaign for access to land and secure tenure presented by Jane Katz  yesterday has obvious synergies with the UCLG presidency’s plans to focus on the issue of the right to housing over the coming year.
Women groups and local elected women should not allow the reporting and monitoring of the agendas to happen without our perspectives, and we will need to tackle this together. Our longstanding commitment and collaboration grassroots women through the Huairou Commission will be instrumental in this regard.
Often times one needs the mirror of others to understand one self, and working with the women of Huairou Commission and WIEGO has helped us open local governments’ eyes to the role that they can play. Martha Chen shared yesterday with us that local government hold the key for the livelihoods of many women in the informal economy who, themselves, hold the key to many of the environmental, economic and social dimensions of SDG 11 and the New Urban Agenda.
If feminizing politics means collaborating rather than competing for success, I hope that local and regional governments and civil society will be leading the way!

A dedicated chapter will be needed for the amazing progress that we are making in the structural dialogue with the United Nations System. The welcome to New York has been remarkable but more will follow on that!

Remembering the women's suffrage movement of 1913

On the eve of the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States on 20 January, and with a planned Womens March on Washington, it is an auspicious moment to remember the "suffrage pilgrims" who marched on Washington in 1913 to demand the vote for women at Woodrow Wilson's inauguration.

As reported in Retronauton February 12, a small band of suffragettes, bundled against the cold, assembled in New York and set out on foot for a “suffrage hike” to Washington, aiming to reach the capital in time for the main march.

They were led by “General” Rosalie Jones, a prominent activist who had led a march to Albany just a couple months earlier.

In addition to suffragist literature which they handed out to curious onlookers along their route, the “suffrage pilgrims” carried a letter to the President-elect, demanding that he make suffrage a priority of his administration and warning that the women of the nation would be watching "with an intense interest such as has never before been focused upon the administration of any of your predecessors."

After walking 234 miles in 17 days, the pilgrims arrived in Washington in time for the main event, which was officially dubbed The Woman Suffrage Procession.

Paul, Burns and NAWSA had assembled an army of women from across the United States and the world.

The procession was led by New York lawyer Inez Mulholland, clad in white atop a white horse. She was followed by five mounted brigades, nine bands, 26 floats and an estimated 8,000 marchers.

The marchers represented foreign countries from Sweden to New Zealand, professions from nurses to lawyers, and delegations from the individual states.

Among the notable marchers were Helen Keller, Jeannette Rankin (who would become the first woman elected to the House of Representatives four years later), journalist Nellie Bly and black activist Ida B. Wells, who marched with the Illinois delegation despite the complaints of some segregationist marchers.

The procession made its way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol, with the Treasury as its destination, passing buildings festooned with bunting and decorations for the next day’s inauguration.

After a few blocks, the surrounding crowds spilled into the street, blocking the way. As the marchers struggled through, sometimes in single file, they were heckled, tripped, shoved and showered with abuse.

The police were hardly helpful. Some even joined in the harassment. Ambulances had to squeeze through the masses to reach injured marchers. A hundred women were hospitalized.Still, many managed to complete the procession. The event concluded with an allegorical tableau on the steps of the Treasury Building, featuring women dressed in flowing costumes as Columbia, Justice, Charity, Liberty, Peace and Hope

The mistreatment of the marchers at the hands of the mob and police was widely witnessed and provoked an outcry. Congressional hearings were held, the superintendent of police was fired and the marchers’ cause gained wider visibility and support — on March 8, the Women’s Journal triumphantly declared, "Nation Aroused by Open Insults to Women — Cause Wins Popular Sympathy.”

The event provided a shot in the arm to the suffrage movement, but it would take another seven years of tireless and painful activism before the 19th Amendment was finally passed and ratified.

Source: retronaut