This post is part of a series on the 54th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Click on a link to read further.
The first global debrief happened Monday morning at the Salvation Army on 52nd Street here in New York. A panel of four women from the UN Division for the Advancement of Women address the civil society every morning at 8:45-9:30.
I didn’t envy the UNDAW representatives. Many of the women waited up to 8 hours through long lines to register. No one that I know of was able to make it through the lines in less than 3 hours, and people waiting were not able to sit. A lot of the women at the debrief were extremely angry at the long lines, lack of seating, and general lack of organization of the 54th UNCSW.
Because this UNCSW marks such an important anniversary there are more than 8,000 women here to take part. This is more than double the participation rates of earlier years, and UN renovations have exacerbated the capacity problems by limiting space and by complicating the needs of UN Security.
In previous years countries were able to organize regional events within the UN building, but this year (and probably for the next four years of construction) official events are constricted to using the UN North Lawn Building.
This has meant that only one event can happen at a time and that extra security passes are issued for each event that occurs. Even members of the Official Canadian Delegation have complained about being denied access to events happening at the UN.
At the morning brief a member of the Trade Union announced that they were going to draft a letter of complaint to the Secretary General. Other women at the brief shouted at the UNDAW reps asking if the UN would treat men in this way, and giving them hell over the horrible conditions of the rooms (being dirty, over crowded and over or under heated) ongoing technical difficulty, and a lot of wasted time.
Even the Church Center, which usually (and VERY GENEROUSLY) allows the UNCSW civil society groups to use space for parallel events, has been overcrowded. There haven’t been as many parallel sessions scheduled as there have been in the past. The rooms at the Church Center usually only accommodate up to a few hundred people, and the UN Conference Rooms don’t seem to accommodate more than 2000 people. So there hasn’t been a lot of activities to choose from and it has meant that some women just can’t get into sessions.
Luckily, for me, the stylish feminists frequently wear stiletto heels. This makes them very slow… I’ve been able to get into a lot of the sessions that I’ve wanted to. My biggest barrier seems to be being stereotypically Canadian Polite. I feel guilty trying to outrun the aging feminists and tend to let them get ahead of me. Also there are a lot of very loud and pushy people here. I’m trying not to let them push me around, but it’s definitely a challenge.
The Trade Union has made the Open Letter to the Secretary General Available here: