The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) took place online from 15 to 26 March 2021. Some 25,000 participants attended more than 700 events, including some 40 YMCA young people. They participated from the US, Canada, Hong Kong YMCA, YMCA Japan, YMCA Taiwan, YMCA Macau, NCY Korea, YMCA Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Uruguay, Mexico, Brazil, Finland, UK, Greece.
CSW65 is the UN’s largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s empowerment. This year, the theme was “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”.
We heard from three of the YMCA representatives at the event: Marshia Mili Gomes from YMCA Bangladesh; Law Lap Man (Siu Law) from YMCA Hong Kong; and Cecilia Lou Si Weng of YMCA Macau.
Why Gender Equality is a key topic
At the YMCA, we strongly believe that we should all work toward achieving authentic gender equality and inclusion, taking proactive steps to include girls and women.
“Women and Gender is a cross-cutting social issue which we cannot ignore. It’s vital in every sector in life. Therefore, the event on Women like this one – which incorporated almost all the sectors, races, cultures, divisions, nations of the world – will definitely have a positive impact on those who took part, and for that reason it will have a constructive impact in communities as well”, says Marshia Mili Gomes from YMCA Bangladesh.
“If we can be gender-sensitive, we can respect others and accept difference naturally, without prejudice and oppression”, agrees Law Lap Man (Siu Law) from YMCA Hong Kong. “We need to work hard to enable everyone in this [YMCA] movement to share their voice equally and take more actions for justice, not just talking about it”.
“Different genders can be part of the decision-making progress, starting from the individual himself or herself, and involving family members and then gradually motivating the community to collaborate. Be more gender-sensitive, gender-neutral and respect people with different gender orientation”, concludes Cecilia Lou Si Weng from YMCA Macau.
YMCA participation at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 65
On March 25, Asia & Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY) Gender Equity Committee organised a CSW65 side event entitled ‘Towards a safe Just and Inclusive world: Women’s Participation in Decision Making’
This event covered topics such as Thursdays in Black, Women’s Rights for an Equal Future, the role of Men, and ecumenism.
Law Lap Man says: “The most exciting moment in the event was participating and being the moderator in the Asia Pacific Alliance of YMCA session. It enables the YMCA movement to have an opportunity to share with others what we, as part of the Ecumenical Movement, can do to witness to the love of God, and how we could bring the equity message to the world. We had great sharing and dialogue. Cross-generational dialogue is essential. Creating a safe space for powerless people to feel secure sharing and having a voice is vital. How YMCA can self-correct itself from history and include gender perspectives is also inspiring. YMCA still needs to work very hard in this aspect, especially in the practice of leadership. I really wish the YMCA movement could nurture more leaders who are truly caring, embracing, reflective, and able to use the gender lens to make their judgments.”
Marshia Mili Gomes shares: “One of the panellists said that Jesus was a feminist. For me it was a bit true: He always tried to put women in a higher position, regarding the social circumstances or barriers on His time. It was also great to hear from Men’s point of view that they really want to help women and support and create a safe, just and inclusive world”.
Gender Equality from an early age to the work space
“Gender equality starts at home”, states Cecilia Lou Si Weng. It is important to foster in children the sense of equality by offering adequate access to decision-making spaces and leadership for both boys and girls. For instance, let’s start inclusive conversations by using gender-neutral languages and embracing both sisterhood and brotherhood.
Regarding the economic sector, Marshia Mili Gomes comments: “Women always do better in small enterprises and cooperative works, and they contribute a lot to the economic growth of the community, because women really do it honestly as they do it to support their family or to support their own existence. They are also sympathetic to other vulnerable women, and they try to incorporate them in their journeys for the betterment of their lives and their families’ lives”.
Our three reporters were energised by the event. “The whole experience is fantastic and empowering”, says Law Lap Man with enthusiasm. “It is eye-opening and enables me to know many groups and organizations about which I had no idea before. I could feel the solidarity and the powerful connection of similarly minded people. I believe it is crucial to connect people with similarities, to create a more powerful voice and counterbalance or even challenge existing social norms.”
“The sharing, speeches, and video presentations all inspired me, and made me feel that I have chosen the right path in my life which is working for Gender Equality, raising support for women’s voices, and supporting and encouraging them to be in the decision-making process, especially at the grass roots level,” explains Marshia Mili Gomes.
Cecilia Lou Si Weng agrees: “The events are inclusive, as they have a diverse audience with people from different parts of the world, and quite a large proportion of male attendees are also working on gender issues. I enjoyed the wisdom and experience of individuals, leaders, experts and advocates”. She concludes: “YMCA is doing its utmost to lead and motivate others to work together towards an equal world. The road to achieve gender equality is a long journey which requires collective participation from everyone.”