Leah Chipepa reports from UNCSW - Day 1 & 2

Leah is an Zambian MU member and part of our 2018 delegation to UNCSW. Leah has extensive experience working as a women’s rights advocate and campaigner in Africa and internationally. Here she reports on her first couple of days at UNCSW

I am attending the 62nd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) as part of the Mothers’ Union delegation which is made up of members from around the world. I live in Zambia from St Peters Parish nd so I was particularly drawn to this year’s theme of “rural women”, and I look forward to being able to contribute throughout the week by using my experiences of advocating for women’s rights. 

Whilst discussions and sessions go on amongst government representatives (be it Ministers for Women, ambassadors or civil servants) non-governmental organisations, such as Mothers’ Union have opportunities to participate in conversations on the content of the agreed conclusions. We can also attend seminars and workshops, to share information and showcase our work on empowering women.

After much difficulty with flights and being delayed approximately 36 hours I was relieved to arrive in New York – I have attended UNCSW in the past in my capacity of Chair for the Africa CSW NGO sub-committee on Information and Communication – so I was able to hit the ground running and start attending events straight away and have already had a very full couple of days. 

It is one of my goals this week to look at ways in which Mothers’ Union can help achieve empowerment for women and girls. In my first couple of days, after attending several events centred around women’s economic empowerment , one way that I think this can be achieved is taking women’s income generating projects from micro to macro level. Whilst these projects are considered micro women are not recognised as contributing to GDP, there are not paid as much as they should be, and they are not taken seriously by leaders within their communities. It is important that women’s access, control and ownership of productive resources, including security of land tenure  are  part of the dialogue this week so that there is a paradigm shift from  women’s survivalist activities to self-sustaining enterprises that contribute to employment creation.  

I also was able to attend  events on child marriages which is a real problem in my own country Zambia and in the countries of many of my Mothers’ Union sisters. There are many problems surrounding these issues including stigma, teenage pregnancies and rape. We heard, and I know from experience, how even when girls and women are removed from the situations it can be just as hard for them to return to their families. I really believe that this is an area where The Church and Mothers’ Union can provide support in terms of being involved in supporting shelters and helping provide access to education. 

It is great that I am attending as part of a delegation – every evening we spend some time discussing how the UNCSW works and our role here as well as what we have attended that day. It is important that we take this time to be together and pray – ensuring that God is at the heart of all we are trying to achieve.