Report From UN Commission on Status of Women

by Rebecca Norlander on February 22, 2011

Every year, representatives of member states gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality issues and identify pressing challenges that forestall the advancement of women worldwide. It’s called the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and the most urgent issues facing women are brought to the attention of the UN Security Council. The 2011 CSW is meeting this week, from Feb. 22 – Mar. 4.

Also each year, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) selects approximately twenty young women to represent the organization as delegates to the CSW meetings. This year, I’m one of them: I’ll be attending the 55th annual CSW, and reporting back to you on the issues facing women globally, along with the experience of (hopefully) being part of the solution.

My name is Rebecca Norlander, and as a PhD student concentrating in Social Transformation at Saybrook University in San Francisco my interests align closely with the CSW agenda. My area of interest is Human Rights Education (HRE), specifically, the intersection between HRE initiatives and new communication technologies.

It’s no accident that I applied to be a delegate at the 2011 CSW: the theme this year is Access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work. I had no idea when I applied just how timely this subject would be: social media is central in popular protests sweeping much of the world, and both the use by and implications for women are significant.

I’m looking forward to meeting other CSW delegates working in this area, investigating the way that user-sourced and user-generated technologies can provide more widespread and accurate monitoring and documentation of abuse, in turn promoting appropriate action and advocacy. Empowering women through technology has implications for the decentralization of HRE, making it increasingly interactive and participatory.

The U.N. building is being renovated, adding an additional layer of chaos to this already chaotic organization. However the mood at the CSW so far is excited in no small part because of the creation of UN Women, a new United Nations entity to support gender equality and the empowerment of women, which will be officially launched later this week. Its primary functions will be to support inter-governmental bodies (such as the CSW) legislation is developed, then to assist in the application and implementation of respective commitments and to form partnerships with and between NGOs and civil society.

It’s an ambitious agenda. For me, success will likely occur in small yet serendipitous ways throughout the week, enlarging my vision and understanding of what it means to be dedicated to advancing women’s rights in today’s world.

Keep reading, and I’ll tell you how it goes.

To read more about CSW 2011, visit You can also contact me at, and I will be tweeting throughout the week at @rnorlander.

Filed under: Archive