By Muhammed Bello Buhari
In early March 2023, Digital Grassroots participated in the UN’s 67th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held at the United Nations in New York as well as NGO CSW. Standing as youth advocates, DIGRA delegates Esther Mwema and Nancy Wachira magnified the digital echo of women’s voices, highlighting the significance of fostering global bonds and empowerment among women in the tech realm.
The annual CSW conference brings together State Parties, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and other representatives to discuss gender equality. This year’s theme was “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. This conference session is the first to be hosted in person post the COVID-19 pandemic.
But first, what are the UN CSW and NGO CSW?
The Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The NGO Forum of the Commission on the Status of Women (NGO CSW) is the civil society side of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). NGO CSW is a gathering of civil society actors that allows organizations and activists without the required Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accreditation or UN pass to participate in the UN CSW, to still engage in the CSW process.
DIGRA delegates engaged and participated in CSW67 through multiple avenues, including hosting an event in person, moderating, speaking, and attending the official meetings and events program. These activities are outlined below.
- Speaking Events
» CSW67 Consultation Day – Generation Equality Leads Panel
CSW67 & Generation Equality: Committing to Achieving Global Gender Equality
Before attending the UN CSW67, DIGRA Founder, Esther Mwema participated virtually on this panel that aimed at sharing information about Generation Equality and the opportunities for engagement in 2023 as a panelist. As the only youth leaders in #GenerationEquality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality, Esther shared our commitments as an Action Coalition, how they relate to the current CSW and International Women’s Day, and how people can connect for Action Coalition. Watch the full event here.
» Opening panel for CSW67 ‘Open, Safe and Equal – Shaping a feminist digital future’
High-Level Panel Title: Stronger Together
This High-Level event, co-sponsored by UN Foundation, will bring together leaders from Governments, CSOs, Women Activists, UN agencies, and the private sector in a concerted focus on the CSW67 priority theme and the ‘once in a generation’ opportunity it presents to place gender equality at the heart of the digital revolution.
For Digital Grassroots, as the only youth leader in the Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality, CSW67 represents a unique opportunity to cement its vision of a gender-equal digital future, paving the way for a concerted push forward in 2023. “We need to ensure a strong legacy for this CSW. We are stronger together”, our founder, Esther Mwema, said as she moderated and facilitated the opening panel and presented what excites her about the CSW and what is at stake with this year’s topic. She was joined on stage by 3 UN Under Secretaries-General, who have made inspirational commitments to advance gender equality in the digital world, Sima Sami Bahous of UN Women, Catherine Russell of UNICEF, and Doreen Bogdan-Martin of ITU.
» Joint Side event CSW67
Panel: New Frontiers in Skills4Girls
Digital Grassroots, together with the Government of Finland, the Government of Sweden, UNICEF, and Women in Games, co-hosted this side event to raise awareness of current and new initiatives that bridge expertise from global grassroots solutions and gaming and technology industries – including via innovative finance instruments- as collective partners to advance tech, digital creativity, and design skills for and with girls. Watch one of our delegates and Digital Grassroots Ambassador, Nancy sharing her personal reflection here.
» UNICEF Roundtable Discussion
Roundtable Title: Financing Outcomes for Girls and Women
In this roundtable co-hosted by the Government of Finland, UNICEF, and UNCDF, participants aligned around a collective vision to work towards financing outcomes for girls and young women. As the youth representative, Digital Grassroots, represented by Esther Mwema, highlighted the importance of digital connectivity and skilling for girls and young women to bridge the gender digital divide.
» CSW67 Youth Forum Event
High-Level Panel Title: Access, Ecosystems, Design, and Safety: A Call-to-Action for Policymakers and Stakeholders
Generation Equality youth and adolescent leads and UN Women convened an in-person CSW67 Youth Forum in New York City. The Youth Forum was a vibrant and dynamic engagement space where young people networked and interacted with decision-makers. As Action Coalition Youth Leader for Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality, Digital Grassroots’ Esther participated as a stakeholder and talked about what needed to be done to ensure meaningful localization of digital technologies. Other speakers were Sima Sami Bahous, UN Women Executive Director, Lynda Diseru Tabuya, Minister of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation (Fiji), Marija Vasileva-Blazev, Officer-in-Charge, Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Sivananthi Thanenthiran, Executive Director, Arrow (Indonesia), Ana Gabriel Zúñiga Aponte, Iniciativa Latinoamericana por los Datos Abiertos (ILDA), Costa Rica, Elizabeth Segal, Working Group on Girls (USA).
- Non-speaking Events
The Action Coalition had its first in-person meeting in connection with the CSW session hosted by Finland. The most important outcome of the meeting was the desire and need to intensify cooperation to achieve the Action Coalition’s goals. Other non-speaking events Digital Grassroots participated in are the Women in Stem presentation of research papers hosted by LinkedIn and Microsoft, the Feminist Accountability Framework hosted by Global Fund for Women, and the Women’s Rights Caucus Press Conference.
- Media and Communications
Throughout the conference, Esther provided updates to our community on both delegates’ activities through:
DIGRA Youtube Channel:
UNICEF Side Event Video (Nancy Wachira)
Youth Forum Event Video (Esther Mwema)
Epic Wins Generation Girls Blog co-authored by our founder, Esther Mwema, together with Riitta Swan, and Patty Alleman
Transforming internet governance to eliminate online inequalities Blog by our founder, Esther Mwema
Conclusion: Why did DIGRA participate in NGO CSW Forum 67 and UN CSW 67?
For UN CSW67, Digital Grassroots, as the only youth leader in #GenerationEquality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality, sent two delegates, Esther Mwema, Founder and Chief Strategist, and Nancy Wachira, Digital Grassroots Ambassador, who worked together with their diverse skill sets to amplify the voices of women and girls to be architects of the digital future and the various issues currently facing women. As a female-led organization, we believe in empowering women and girls to be architects of the digital future. The discussions that happen at the UN CSW forum, the agreements that come out of this space, and the advocacy engagement that takes place both at the UN CSW forum and the NGO CSW Forum are relevant – and have a potential impact on DIGRA’s work and the work of our partners.
We participated in learning, networking, and identifying opportunities to be connected and in solidarity with other struggles within feminist movements. Our participation is also part of a process of visibility and amplification of the work, voices, and commitments of our partners globally; and our dedication to ensuring their connection to and inclusion in global movements and spaces. We appreciate and thank UNICEF, UN Foundation, and Global Fund for Women for sponsoring us to participate in person in New York.