AFETT Attends UN Women - 61st Commission on the Status of Women

March 31st, 2017
By Cavelle Joseph
Immediate Past President (2015/2016)
Civil Society Delegate Member of Trinidad and Tobago, UN Women
My Experience at the 61st Commission on the Status of Women

The sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York between 13 to 24 March 2017. The 61st Session of Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 61) Priority theme was: “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.” Review theme: “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls (agreed conclusions of the fifty-eighth session)”.


Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from all regions of the world were invited to attend the session. Trinidad and Tobago sent a delegation led by The Honourable Ayanna Webster-Roy, MP and the Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister - holding the portfolios of Gender and Child Affairs, Ecclesiastical Affairs and Central Administration Services, Tobago; the Director of Gender Affairs, Mrs. Antoinette Martin-Jack, and a civil society delegation of seventeen members from eleven organisations, including the following:


  1. Association of Female Executives of Trinidad and Tobago (AFETT)

  2. Hindu Women’s Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago

  3. Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development- Port of Spain City Corporation

  4. National Muslim Women’s Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago

  5. National Union of Domestic Employees (N.U.D.E.)

  6. Network of NGO’s of Trinidad and Tobago

  7. Network of Rural Women Producers of Trinidad and Tobago

  8. Nursing Association of Trinidad and Tobago

  9. Organization for Abused and Battered Individuals (O.A.B.I.)

  10. Public Services International (PSI)

  11. Soroptimist International of San Fernando

During my first delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations, I attended the Ministerial round table discussions and participated in official events sponsored by country missions and UN agencies on diverse matters, including ending child marriage; empowering women in politics; ending modern-day slavery; closing the gender gap in agriculture; encouraging women for greater participation in justice; ending all forms of violence and discrimination against women; the urgent need to mitigate climate change; the role of the data revolution, women’s health, the launch of the platform for equal pay for equal work, technology and the changing world of work; and much, much more.


During the commission, UN member states negotiate and produce an outcome document. This year’s outcome document will focus on family / work-life balance, discrimination, violence, women with disabilities, and much more. I think that there is an opportunity in the future for civil society to unite and produce its own outcome document.  


The parallel events I attended during the commission that were hosted by NGOs were even at times more energized than the official events. The Trinidad and Tobago side events (a first for our country) included a session

on 1) Women Economic Empowerment in the changing world of work: Emerging issue:  Empowering Indigenous women and Women and; 2) The Economic Empowerment in the changing world of work Challenges or opportunities in the implementation of the SDG's for women. Both sessions were packed to capacity, and were supported by our Caribbean sisters and delegates from Europe and Africa.


The best part about my time at the CSW was without a doubt the fascinating people I met; learning what other countries were doing to reduce gender disparities and shape the workplaces of the future; listening to Her Excellency Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations in New York, USA, as she spoke at the Inter-Parliamentary Union and Trinidad and Tobago session on Women in Politics; meeting Janet Mock and attending her session in Intersectionality; meeting Patricia Arquette and Abby Wombach as they led the Equal Pay Platform of Champions at the General Assembly Hall; listening to my fellow delegates speak at their side events (Dr. Safeeya Mohammed, Ms. Terry Ince, Mrs. Aasha Permanand, Mrs. Gia Gaspard Taylor); attending Commonwealth Day at The Joint Office for Commonwealth Permanent Missions to the United Nations, and singing and dancing at the Trinidad and Tobago Permanent Mission to the United Nations with the most fantastic group of people (and learning that they love Ultimate Rejects as much as I do).

The CSW 61 was full of energy, excitement, an exchange of ideas and other conferences, and my only fear was was to return home, full of ideas, but back to the reality that we still have a long way to go to catch up with the Iceland, Hungary, Australia, Belgium and Canada of this world.


I am, however, more committed to work together with my new found friends; to transform our passions into a better world for all of us. As part of the civil society and UN Women community of the United Nations , we have a great opportunity to push for change. We must collaborate and use our digital and community platform to share ideas, rally our communities, and commit our collective talents to take action and commit to the final declaration that we no doubt have signed.

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