The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a United Nations commission that takes place in March in New York every year, to negotiate a new document that contains a set of agreed conclusions towards the advancement of gender equality worldwide (watch our animation to get the full 101 on the CSW and how you can engage!). This year, the priority theme was “social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”.
CHOICE attended the CSW as part of Right Here Right Now (RHRN): a programme consisting of 11 advocacy platforms from the Caribbean, Latin-American, Africa and Asia. As every year, CHOICE also sent two youth advocates to lobby on behalf of Dutch women and girls.
Access to public and social protection services for young people
In preparation of the CSW, CHOICE researched the accessibility of public services for Dutch youth, and gathered data on how Dutch youth feel about and experience different themes (such as abortion, discrimination and sexual harassment) in the Netherlands. The results of these outcomes were shared with the Dutch delegation before the CSW to give them insight in the experiences of young women and girls:
- Within the Netherlands access to the contraceptives of choice is limited for young people due to high costs. 4% of respondents indicated that they might have chosen a different kind of contraceptive if the costs were not an issue. This is disturbing, because this means that many young people in the Netherlands are actually not able to gain access to the contraceptive method of choice because of financial reasons.
- Respondents expressed discomfort with having to talk to their regular general practitioner about their sexual health. These respondents were also not aware of the fact that they could visit a gynaecologist.
- Abortion in the Netherlands remains stigmatized. We also see a rise of the pro-life movement within the Netherlands. Furthermore, those that have undergone or considered an abortion do not feel comfortable discussing this. 67% of correspondents expressed the need for online consultations on abortion.
- Strikingly, over half of respondents expressed that they have felt uncomfortable or have had to deal with discrimination on the basis of their gender, in their workspace.
Next to advocacy on these issues, CHOICE supported youth advocates from Right Here Right Now by strengthening their capacity in a workshop prior to the CSW. In addition, CHOICE organized a youth event with our friends at Women Deliver, intended to provide young people with a safe space and a platform to share personal stories about the importance of SRHR to them personally. Here, both on- and off-stage, stories were shared and connections were made to strengthen SRHR collaboration and to show the importance of involving young people in decisions on SRHR.
Good outcomes for CSW63
After a long week of negotiations, CSW63 did eventually result in agreed conclusions. Although it is not the progressive document CHOICE and others were hoping for, the document at least does not go back beyond agreed language of previous years. Additionally, some valuable language on and references to SRHR, girls, menstrual hygiene, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and women human rights defenders are in the text, which are all areas the RHRN youth advocates advocated for with their respective delegations. While the discussions on these topics were very heated in the negotiations, the inclusion of what we consider to be good language on these themes is considered a great success.
In follow-up, CHOICE will take part in the national CSO debrief meeting in The Hague in April. This is where the process and outcome of this year’s CSW and strategies for next year will be discussed. Additionally, CHOICE has set up follow-up meetings with the Dutch delegation representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In these meetings CHOICE will re-emphasize the findings of our Dutch consultation and remind the Dutch delegation of what they, as well as the other CSW members, agreed upon in New York for the advancement of women’s and girl’s rights. We will ask them to focus their attention on our own national Dutch context, where there is much work left to be done in terms of the accessibility of public services for young people, especially women and girls, and in terms of more inclusive social protection systems that also serve and protect all young people. Our recommendations:
- We recommend to keep in mind that, for young people, even small costs for contraceptives can be barriers in their contraceptive choice. Additionally, contraceptives should be available at any age and in any context.
- Take the current status of the abortion law (still criminalized under circumstances) and the stigma around abortion into account. Additionally, keep in mind that online consultations (such as the one conducted by Women on Web) could be a desirable option.
- Be aware that discrimination and harassment on the basis of sex is an everyday reality for many young people, mostly women. This influences workers who work in public services (healthcare, education) and it should be taken into account in social protection.