Nile Sisters Development Initiative (NSDI) served on the United Nations Association of San Diego (UNA-SD) delegation to the United Nations 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), March 13–24, 2017. Attendees of the annual meeting included delegates from UN member states, civil society actors, and non-governmental organizations accredited by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
UNA-SD is one of only four UNA chapters that has achieved annual attendance status, resulting primarily from the leadership of NSDI board member and former UNA-SD president, Anne Hoiberg. Ms. Hoiberg is also the founder of the Women’s Museum of California, which hosted an official CSW61 side event entitled “Refugee Women Leading Women Worldwide from Abuse to Economic and Social Empowerment.” This event focused on resilient women, such as NSDI founder Elizabeth Lou, who have transformed their hardships into opportunities to serve others.
CSW61 event panelists included the following San Diego women who proudly represent their vibrant and thriving refugee and immigrant communities:
- Dilkhwaz Ahmed, former asylee from Iraq and founder of License to Freedom, provider of counseling and support for victims and behavioral training for abusers, primarily Middle Eastern refugees
- Carmen Kcomt, former Peruvian attorney and judge, forced to flee retaliation for her judicial decisions, now director of legal and social services for La Maestra Community Health Centers, provider of affordable high-quality social services primarily for refugee and immigrant patients
- Trish Martinez, advocate, community organizer, training developer and presenter to indigenous communities from nineteen tribal nations
In alignment with the CSW61 theme, delegates addressed structural barriers to the achievement of women’s economic empowerment. One in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex or other abuse in her lifetime. Gender-based violence (GBV) cuts across ethnicity, race, class, religion, and education levels. GBV negatively impacts the health and well-being of women, their communities, and countries.
One of the key takeaways from CSW61 was the importance of working alongside faith and religious stakeholders. These community members are trusted leaders who can reframe cultural and social norms to promote gender equity and women’s empowerment. There is a need to strengthen the support and protection of GBV survivors, who then can leverage their experiences to be a voice for other women and girls. As evidenced by our panelists, women are at the forefront of advocacy on behalf of vulnerable populations.