Image of four IWDA partners in New York: Laura Afonso de Jesus, Dr Alice Pollard, Lilly Be’Soer and Ros Sopheap

IWDA partners take the international stage in New York

Image of four IWDA partners in New York: Laura Afonso de Jesus, Dr Alice Pollard, Lilly Be’Soer and Ros Sopheap
Laura Afonso de Jesus, Dr Alice Pollard, Lilly Be’Soer and Ros Sopheap. Photo by Sharon Smee

In March, representatives from IWDA and our Women’s Action for Voice and Empowerment (WAVE) and WeRise programs attended the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. CSW is the largest gathering of the 193 UN Member States focussed on the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The conference is all about negotiating the ‘agreed conclusions’ which are designed to inform policy on women’s human rights, and if a government signs up, they’re obligated to deliver on them. These conclusions have huge real-world implications to the lives of millions of women internationally.

Part of IWDA’s role is to bring women from a local or regional space of leadership onto the international stage.
Being part of a global forum mobilised women to participate and be heard where the power sits. This visibility is especially important for women from the Pacific, a region which is often underrepresented in global forums like CSW.

Dr Alice Pollard, from IWDA partner organisation West ‘Are’Are Rokotanikeni Association (WARA), is a key advocate for women’s financial independence and security in the Solomon Islands. CSW was one of Dr Pollard’s first opportunities to have a central role at a global forum.

“For me this is a once in a life time experience. Our coming together at this very important event gives us the opportunity to dream together as sisters globally on how we can move forward and progress in political leadership especially in Solomon Islands and the Pacific region.”

Dr Pollard is a national champion for women’s development. She has contested two national elections in Solomon Islands. She has a 15 year tenure assisting the government of Solomon Islands on gender, social and economic issues, leadership, community development, and governance.

Dr Pollard was a panellist as part of the Money Power Politics parallel event at CSW, hosted by IWDA partners from Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Fiji. The WAVE and We Rise partners overcame a New York blizzard to present the interactive workshop on women’s economic and political empowerment.

Alongside her sisters from women’s organisations across Asia Pacific, Dr Pollard discussed the challenges women face in attaining leadership. Dr Pollard says that even when women have the same skills as men, women have to work harder to attain positions of leadership.

“Determination, persistence, strength, courage, community engagement and many more leadership attributes are key ingredients… however, in my experience as a woman candidate… these leadership attributes are insufficient to win a seat for political leadership by a woman.”

Contesting seats in national elections in the Solomon Islands can be challenging, costly and prone to nepotism or corruption. Poor infrastructure, cultural barriers, and mixed perspectives on women in public leadership roles makes leadership terrain difficult to navigate.

“These challenges should not turn off our focus in working together to push for potential women leaders to prove themselves in political leadership… we need to rally behind women candidates financially as well. Women’s economic empowerment for female candidates is crucial.”

The WAVE, WeRise and IWDA delegation attended a number of events while in New York, addressing the strengthening of cooperation for women’s rights organisations, the future of the Women, Peace and Security agenda, equality in economic and political spaces and regional dialogue on the priorities of NGOs throughout Asia Pacific.

IWDA CEO, Joanna Hayter said, “CSW is the best place for our partners to stand in front of Governments and funders of the world to ensure their political and financial commitment to women’s rights. It’s a place to build global alliances between women’s activists, organisations, and feminists, and it gives women like Dr Pollard, the opportunity to create change on a global stage.”

The WAVE program is supported by the Government of the Netherlands and WeRise is supported by the Australian Government.