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  • Invisible Women Must be Included: WRC at CSW59/Beijing+20

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    As the 2015 Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) enters the second week, it’s clear is that, collectively, we’ve made great strides in the 20 years since the Beijing Platform for Action was adopted. New York is brimming with dynamic women from all over the world who daily work to combat the challenges that keep us from achieving the goal of equality.

    The amount of international attention and collaboration focused on this goal is a testament to the women who pushed against a wall of inertia 20 years ago. We can all agree that there is still not enough funding and not enough commitment from international governments, and there has not been enough progress. But we cannot deny that the necessity of women’s participation in society is now commonly understood.

    As one of only a few organizations focused on displaced women, we were excited to be a part of the Beijing + 20 CSW to promote the programs that we know address the needs of and empower the world’s most invisible women. Our research has led us to understand that the development, women’s rights and humanitarian communities must collaborate if we are going to make progress for these women.

    Advancing the Rights of Displaced Women and Girls with Disabilities

    We were especially delighted to host Roseweter Mudarikawa and Jolly Acen from the Network of African Women with Disabilities (NAWWD), the first time representatives from this population have participated in the CSW. The biggest hurdle to services for women and girls with disabilities is not their own capabilities but the attitudes of others. Their inclusion in development and humanitarian programs and the adoption of this issue in the broader women's right agenda is long overdue.

    Our participation at CSW also highlighted our work to address some of the most vexing but solvable challenges for displaced women, including their heightened risk of rape and other violence in the daily search for firewood, the significantly higher rates of mortality for women in natural disasters and the effects of unequal gender nationality laws on women.

    Access to Energy As A Key Driver of Gender Equality

    A decade ago, we realized that no one seemed to take a concerted, coordinated approach to the appallingly high incidence of rape among Darfuri women as they collected firewood. Today, safe and sustainable access to energy is increasingly recognized as a human right – essential for the safety and well-being of refugee women. Our research led to fuel efficient cookstoves. Moving forward, we advocate for more than protection. Programming should expand opportunities for women.

    Women & Disasters: Reducing Vulnerability, Building Resilience & Agency

    Women represented roughly 61 percent of the fatalities in Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis hit in 2008, a significant reduction in the mortality disparity in earlier natural disasters. The difference is community preparedness, including women and girls in the planning, and ensuring that lifesaving reproductive health services are included in humanitarian assistance.

    Equal Nationality Rights

    Unequal nationality laws, which bar women from transferring their nationality to their children or to their non-national spouses, deny people the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship. We promote equal nationality rights as an entry point to a broader conversation on gender equality.

    If the goal of the Beijing Platform was to empower women and girls and build societies that include their participation, it surely meant ALL women and girls. The last to be included – displaced women and girls -- continue to be largely invisible despite the magnitude of humanitarian crises in the world today. We trust that highlighting their needs at the CSW ensures their inclusion in the post-2015 development goals.