Advocates attending and invited to this year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)—an annual event celebrating women and girls and bringing together advocates and change-makers to strategize a path forward toward their equality worldwide—are taking aim at President Donald Trump’s policies.
South African Women’s group Masimanyane is among one of many activist groups who decided not to attend the CSW in light of Trump’s Muslim ban. “The exclusion of women from countries based mainly in the South, or women who emanate from the South, is deeply troubling to all at Masimanyane Womens Rights International,” the group wrote in an official statement on March 7. “The extreme vetting of women residing in the USA and those travelling to or from the USA is reminiscent for us of the apartheid system and brings to mind horrendous experiences that many of us have had during the apartheid era. It is with this in mind that we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from UNCSW this year.”
While some groups are choosing to boycott the event, Trump’s ban has also prevented activists from attending. A number of activists from Ghana, Cameroon, Napal and Bangladesh have been denied visas to the New York City convening for unclear reasons.
Trump’s reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule has also put U.S. representatives in an uncomfortable position at this year’s gathering. His reinstatement and expansion of the policy is a nightmare for women around the globe. It also leaves the U.S. delegation standing alongside nations like Iran, Sudan, Syria, Russia and Saudi Arabia in the arena of reproductive rights—”some of the worst abusers of women’s rights around the world,” according to Shannon Kowalski, directory of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition.
The CSW is a two-week forum purposed to advance women’s rights on a global scale. This year, the UN members at the CSW will be agreeing on an action plan to advance economic opportunities for women. “The inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights must be central to the CSW agenda,” said Preethi Sundaram, policy and advocacy adviser at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, “as women’s opportunities to access decent work and to stay in work are shaped by them being able to act on their sexual and reproductive health and rights.”