Brenda Robertson’s Report of the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women

UNCSW63 2019

March 8 to March 15 

Brenda Robertson 

CFUW UNCSW63 Delegate

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 63 (UNCSW63) was an extraordinary week long experience for the CFUW delegates.  Exceptional sessions, speakers, networking with women from around the globe provided the opportunity to learn, and develop personally and professionally. 

How do women organize who are in conflict zones or countries where Human Rights are not honored?  How are women’s issues to be addressed when the political will is not present?


How can we be effective in Canada to raise awareness about Human Trafficking and take action?  From my experiences at the UNCSW63, more questions arise and seeking further information and answers is part of my plan.  Human Trafficking is the issue which can put a focus on Ontario and Canada. The CFUW Ontario Council is looking to put a spotlight on this issue.

Some quotes

The Duchess of Wessex “If there is no space at the table, pull up a chair.”

Minister Monsef, “ It is one thing to listen, but another to be heard and value what is spoken.


Dr. Sima Simara “Take our stories back to your colleagues and let them know we need their support.  We cannot have all that we have gained for women and girls in Afghanistan in the last 18 years rolled back.  Women need to be at the peace table.”

Sunday, March 10 CONSULTATION DAY at the Trebeca Performing Arts Centre

The energy for the day began with Paprika:  A Women’s Drumming group, and continued through the day with Climbing Poe Tree (Hip Hop), and the Angel Band. Messages such as, “Won’t be quiet, Going to work it out, Going to work it out!”

“What’s the difference between a woman and a man, Words.” “Gender is just a construct.”


The Climbing Poe Tree messages are for the healed to heal others.

They brought ideas:  Who every told you, you could not fly was afraid of heights.

Facts are more powerful than fear.  Effort gives way to existence. The Angel Band song

Swim for your Life came out of terror and tragedy to give hope for living after experiencing extreme violence and loss.

The Woman of Distinction recipient, Gharsanay Ibdul Ameen 20 years old from Afghanistan, encouraged young women from her province to apply for scholarships and convinced 17 to further their education.  She founded the Young Women Leadership program across the country linking leaders and youth through training sessions. As she said’ girls came to understand themselves and can be an effective source of change.”  She traveled widely through Taliban areas to talk to village elders about youth education especially for girls.  She brought 5000 youth together with government to shape policy.  3.7 million children in Afghanistan are not in school of which 60% are female (1 in 3 not in school)  She dreams of a country in harmony and peace where respect and tolerance are promoted.

Photos above show Brenda with (from top to bottom) the Duchess of Sussex, wife of Prince Edward; Minister Monsef, Minister Status of Women; Defender of Human Rights, Chechen Gistam Sakaeva.

UN Side Sessions Highlighted

Of the fourteen UN Side sessions attended the three below were highlights for me.  However, every session attended was broadening and enriching.  I was constantly inspired and motivated by the messages from so many courageous women.  And heartened by government initiatives especially from the Nordic countries which seemed to be leading the way in Human Rights and grass roots support for women on the ground to improve lives and communities in many countries.


Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking:  Effective Responses for Women and Girls

71% of women are victims of Trafficking as they are the most vulnerable and are without economic security.  In 2018, Australia passed the Modern Slavery Act and identifies their government is leading the way.  Belarus identifies trafficking as the fastest growing crime.  Liechtenstein described how offering sexual slaves was a tool for recruiting terrorists.  Online platforms advertise women for money or even cigarettes, anything for trade.

Human Trafficking has become systemic, institutionalized, social norms and economically viable. Steps to be taken include—1. Ensure victims cases are addressed 2. Address Rate of conviction which is too low even though Human Trafficking is criminalized. 3. Ensure support for survivors 4. Strengthen international cooperation and accountability 5. UN Council needs to include issue of Human Trafficking on their Agenda.

Can there be Peace and Security without Women Human Rights Defenders?

Gistam Sakaevea, Executive Director of the NGO Doveriye (Reliance ) from Chechnya 

painted a grim picture of the lives of women and girls in her country where the President stated the Human Rights defenders are worse than terrorists.  She was begging all those present, NGOs and UN Agencies to do their best to decrease this attack. Human Rights Defenders are imprisoned, tortured and families threatened. As her focus is on protecting women from violence in Chechnya, she does not see any hope if the government does not provide security for women and support Human Rights for all.

Safa A Ahmad, a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker described the crisis in Yemen. One story shared was how she had to leave a particular village, even though the Tribal Leaders had offered protection, two young stupid men were accusing her of being a spy.  One of the other women from the village accompanying her would not let her husband exit from the car in front of these young men.  The village woman got out and took the hand of the youth with the gun and said “I know your mother, you will let us go.”  The young men backed away.  This was

Symbolic of the many times women have to carry the burden of conflict, yet can bring about a peaceful resolution. On a troubling note, a man from Yemen who attended the session became very aggressive and disrespectful to the journalist.  The Moderator addressed this immediately.

These are only two of the panelists I am highlighting in this session.

Women at the Table! Transformative Change-Women Shaping the AGENDA of Peace, Transitional Justice and Political Agreements

The Moderator framed this session identifying in the last six months there was a lack of women at the peace tables re conflicts zones such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Dem Rep of Congo.


A 2017 photo was shown of World Leaders of which only three were women.  The question on the photo was “Who is ruling the World?”  Gender Equality growing in Iceland from the women’s movement through lobbying, legislation, institutional mechanisms, negotiations on the labour market, Affirmative Action and unions.  The speaker gave timelines identifying in 1980, the only woman on the government scene, but not in government, was the wife of the Prime Minister.  In 1983 the Women’s Alliance was born.  Women in Parliament and in Local government is growing but still face double burden of career and family.  Professions are undervalued and jobs are not secure.


References throughout this presentation can be seen in the documentary Women. War and Peace.  The slogan Wave Good-by to Dinosaurs was used to get the Women’s Coalition elected as one of the ten parties to be at the peace table negotiations.


Her Story, a profound account of women and girls, survivors of brutal attacks, rape and torture during the war were given a voice.  The truth of sexual violence was not to be buried.  Her Story has united Kosovo in the last twenty years—artists, journalists, civil society, media.  Survivors demanded justice to bring perpetrators to justice.

The speaker, a woman politician stated, “As a politician, I have done too little too late.

The Dem Rep of Congo

Women journalists worked with survivors of atrocities and spread the word, becoming the voice of hundreds of women who had no voice to speak the unspeakable. Many of the five hundred women and girls, came out of hiding to share their stories. The atrocities should be addressed and the women praised for their resilience, not marginalized because they suffered at the hands of the perpetrators, and from the rapes bore children regarded as not acceptable by the community.

Speaker identified that chiefs were being trained on Human Rights and 80 girls were trained as journalists.  “When you talk the message, you act it.”

Peace Building requires long term work to ensure Human Rights.

Other notable events

Meeting with Minister of Status of Women Canada Maryam Monsef at Canadian Mission 

North American and European Caucus Meeting  

Meeting the Duchess of Wessex 

Social networking

GWi Dinner

Commission on the Status of Women Reception

CFUW Dinner—Convenor for this occasion

WG-USA Luncheon