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As the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) convened today in New York City, about 70 Bahamians, guests of the Government, sat in the gallery of the UN General Assembly hall. It was a first for many members of the national delegation and a proud day to be a Bahamian woman. This staging of CSW is very significant as it celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing +20).
Unfortunately, I was the only Bahamian involved in the event forced to be out in the New York cold. Although I was originally on the government delegation my accreditation was revoked. Ironically, it was not because I did anything wrong, but simply because I accepted an invitation to be a speaker on an international panel for the Global Campaign on Equal Nationality Laws. This is a parallel event, and I am attending in my personal capacity as a member of civil society. This is a significant event for the Bahamas’ participation, so it is certainly something I am celebrating, notwithstanding the issue of my removal from the national delegation.
CSW is also one of the biggest annual international gatherings of NGOs. It is a meeting ground for civil society to network and advance the cause of women’s empowerment, women’s development and women’s rights. My presentation is on the Bahamas’ efforts to advance constitutional equality for men and women, and the work of civil society.
The Bahamian government decided that civil society members are not allowed to speak as panelists at parallel events if they are members of the national delegation. I received a written ultimatum asking me to choose: either I cancelled my speaking engagement or I had to be deleted from the delegation. I fought the decision because I thought the imposition of an ultimatum on this matter was counter to the spirit of the event and unproductive if the point of bringing civil society members on the national delegation was to have them fully participate. I was given the opportunity to make my case; however, the government maintained its position.
The opportunity to speak on behalf of civil society was not something I could sacrifice. At the end of the day, the work I do around women’s empowerment is community service, and it is 100% in support of the government’s effort to bring about constitutional equality for men and women and to empower women. On that issue there is no conflict with the government. As a member of civil society our perspectives are certainly different, but our end game is exactly the same.
Notwithstanding my disagreement over the new policy concerning CSW, I firmly believe it is critical to have the Government and civil society working together.
And I encourage the government, in the same manner as the Caribbean Regional Network of Organizations, to uphold its commitments and responsibilities, and be accountable in regards to respecting, protecting and guaranteeing the full enjoyment of the human rights of all women and girls in the Bahamas.
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