By Andrea Garcia
New York, NY - Violet Shivutse of GROOTS Kenya, Jhocas Castillo of DAMPA in the the Philippines, and Haydee Rodriguez of the Union de Cooperativas Las Brumas in Nicaragua arrived in New York last week to attend the first UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Board Meeting, which convened on Wednesday, October 10 at UN Headquarters in New York. The advisory group, according to UN Women's Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, will "play an important consulting role, and provide strategic perspectives on advocacy on gender equality and women's empowerment and on UN Women's thematic priorities."
The three grassroots women leaders were recognized and appointed for their commitment to empowering women in their communities with skill building and network strengthening. They have also successfully built partnerships with local public officials, as part of their strategy to sustain the inclusion of community women in agenda setting, decision-making, planning and implementation for the long term. Because one of UN Women's goals is to gain insights from civil society about strengthening partnerships and building new strategic alliances, the experiences of Ms. Shivutse, Ms. Castillo, and Ms. Rodriguez in this realm in their countries are key contributions for the success of the advisory group.
Another main focus of the meeting was setting women's priorities for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, particularly for inclusion in thematic and country level consultations. In addition to bringing in their personal experiences, Ms. Shivutse, Ms. Castillo, and Ms. Rodriguez distributed a call for suggestions prior to attending the meeting, to consolidate the priorities of other grassroots women in the Huairou Commission networks and represent a clear grassroots women's agenda at the meeting. This was the beginning of a continual conversation the women will maintain with the Huairou Commission and other grassroots women's networks during their 2-year appointment to this advisory board to share their experiences and bring their recommendations to the table.
Overall, all three women were very pleased with the commitment they observed on behalf of UN Women to listen to and seriously consider their recommendations. Specifically, they commented that Executive Director and meeting moderator Bachelet, was very attentive to their inputs, and affirmed the value of their contributions to the discussion.
With the importance of the experiences of women in mind, it is necessary to focus on not only sustaining the achieved inclusion of grassroots women as consultants into global governance frameworks such as the UN Women Civil Society Advisory Board, but also to expand opportunities for entry of grassroots women into other spaces, specifically as decision-makers, planners, designers, and proprietors. In line with this vision for inclusion, during their stay in New York, Ms. Shivutse, Ms. Castillo, and Ms. Rodriguez also attended a Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Coordinating Group Meeting. GEAR seeks to formalize the involvement of civil society as monitors and implementers of the work of UN Women.