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Human Rights

Back to listMar 9, 2012

SGI Promotes Empowerment of Rural Women at 56th UN Commission on the Status of Women

Olivia MugarbirweOlivia Mugarbirwe of PeerLink Initiative Uganda giving a presentation on learning for empowerment

The 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW56) convened at the UN Headquarters in New York from February 27 through March 9 under the theme of "The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges."

From the start of CSW56, representatives from the SGI UN Liaison Office in New York were actively involved in the planning process of the NGO Consultation Day which took place in New York on February 26. They also helped organize an informal networking reception to strengthen connections between peace and disarmament experts and CSW participants together with Global Action to Prevent War at their head office on February 7.

SGI cosponsored a Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF) parallel event titled "Rural Woman and Girls: issues in reproductive health" on February 29 at the Church Center opposite the UN headquarters.

On March 5, SGI hosted a workshop with the theme "Rural Women--Learning for Empowerment" at the Church Center. Discussions centered primarily around the question of the meaning of empowerment, how it can be achieved and how women living in rural areas can become economically empowered. Special attention was given to the role of dialogue and learning in addressing these issues. VGIF cosponsored the event.

discussion groupsParticipants discussing the empowerment of children

Guest speakers were Olivia Mugabirwe, executive director of the PeerLink Initiative Uganda and a member of the Ugandan Federation of University Women; Michaela Leslie-Rule, senior storyteller from See Change Evaluation; Sharon Brennen-Haylock, senior liaison officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office; and former United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury. Presentations were followed by interactive dialogue sessions.

In her presentation, Ms. Mugabirwe spoke about the difficulties Ugandan women face and the role of education and learning--specifically the role of education regarding peace, human rights, environment and health in helping to empower these women. She emphasized that such education can help women improve their lives, regain a sense of dignity and lead them to contribute to their communities.

Ms. Leslie-Rule introduced her work to promote the empowerment of citizens to engage in advocacy and activism through the use of narrative and storytelling. She introduced a documentary film dealing with Tanzanian women's experience of and beliefs about gender-based violence.

Ms. Brennen-Haylock stressed that the empowerment of women in rural areas is a necessity in order to actualize the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Ambassador ChowdhuryAmbassador Chowdhury highlighting the importance of the role of rural women

Ambassador Chowdhury provided concluding remarks, stressing three points: the importance of keeping in mind the role rural women play in contributing to the world's food security; the value of investing in the well-being and education of girls, especially in rural communities, and recognizing their ability to contribute greatly to the community; and the need to empower women, who are most often victims of violence in rural areas, in order to end the cycle of violence and abolish war. 

The small discussion groups yielded common themes of how parents and teachers are a major source of empowerment for children as well as education and, how, through learning, women will come to know their rights, contribute to policy-making, and gain skills necessary for better employment and financial security. 

[Report and photos courtesy of SGI-OPI]