Lesson from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

I am currently in New York attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) and it has been an interesting week that has gone by. When I attended one of the sessions that was facilitated by the Government of Zimbabwe, I was left shell shocked and could hardly believe what I was hearing and what was going on. I just thought it would be important to share my experience and facilitate a process of learning around the issues and interventions made on this particular session.

Firstly, the whole of UNCSW is a process where technical partners and also civil society come together to share experiences from their country on what is going on at the ground level and how they think they can improve situations. Moreover, it is a space where women from all over the world and their governments can learn from each other about what exactly is happening at country level. This also means that technical experts at various levels need to make an input into what their country is presenting because the basic assumption is that they are the people who know the issues very well and clearly. This year at UNCSW the theme was, "the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty eradication and hunger, development and current challenges." Whatever interventions made were supposed to be made around this topic!

During the Zimbabwe-led session, it was sad to note that we had not really grasped the set standard of doing things when we showcased what we did for International Rural Women's Day and also shared some one project the country is doing around the global climate change issue. The only problem was that this intervention was not framed within a particular context and framework. Moreover, it missed the point in terms of meeting the expectations of the UNCSW. Embarassingly, the session seemed to be reduced to political party divides and the issues around the constituency development fund, which am not sure was well understood by the participants.

Going forward it would be critical for civil society and government to put differences aside and interface where it comes to presenting some country interventions. It is important to learn from each other's experiences and documents best practices that can assist other sisters from the world over in understanding Zimbabwean women's experiences. Women from rural Zimbabwe have a lot to share and a major role in hunger and poverty eradication, not to mention development. It is therefore worthwhile to come together as the broader development practitioners to ensure that their story is told and told well.

This session left me disappointed and angry at where we channel our energy towards as a country and also at the caliber of leaders we have. Zimbabwe is way bigger than politics and our political affiliations and hence this should be reflected in all work done on behalf of Zimbabwean women. Enough with this bickering, it is time to hold hands and take Zimbabwe forward and I am of the view that civic can do this if they too demand for a stake in the national discourse and make a difference! The sky is after all the limit. I hope this week and next year Zimbabwe will do better at the UNCSW with such reflections!

By Grace Chirenje

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