GW Experts Share Research at UN Commission on the Status of Women

Founding director of the GW Global Women’s Institute Mary Ellsberg presented research and led discussions at the annual event.

March 19, 2018

Experts from the George Washington University Global Women’s Institute were in New York City this week to present novel research and lead discussions at the 62nd annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

The event features two weeks of presentations and panels focused on the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.

Mary Ellsberg, founding director of GWI, presented the institute’s published research on violence against women and girls in South Sudan on Tuesday as part of an event hosted by the government of the United Kingdom. Up to 65 percent of South Sudanese women interviewed reported experiencing either sexual or physical violence in their lifetime by an intimate partner or non-partner, according to a report released in December. That rate is double the global average and among the highest levels of violence against women and girls in the world.

“Conflict is a driver of intimate partner violence. Women who had experienced incidents of violence related to the conflict were up to three times more likely to experience violence in their relationships,” Dr. Ellsberg said at Tuesday panel. “People who had lost a lot of their wealth due to conflict were marrying their daughters younger and younger. The war is being fought over the bodies of adolescent girls. Programs need to address this more specifically.”

Dr. Ellsberg also chaired a Tuesday evening discussion, called “From Girls to Women: Gender-based Violence Across the Life Course,” that focused on the gap between evidence and action related to gender-based violence in childhood and adolescence. The discussion was hosted by UNICEF and the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) program.

Additionally, Dr. Ellsberg participated in various panels that aimed to address violence against women and girls in high-prevalence settings, child marriage and other issues.

Manuel Contreras-Urbina, GWI’s director of research, spoke about his work measuring gender-based violence in conflict and humanitarian settings on March 12. He spoke at an event titled “Beyond the Hashtags: Measuring Gender-Based Violence among Rural Women.”

Several GW graduate students with the Gender Equality Initiative in International Affairs (GEIA) within the Elliott School of International Affairs traveled to New York and attended various events centered around the CSW. They are all students in director of GEIA Shirley Graham’s courses on global gender policy and gender, war and peace.

The events provided students with the opportunity to engage with influencers and policymakers on key issues affecting women’s lives. A major takeaway is how rural women are not adequately represented or heard at the policy level, Dr. Graham said.

“There can be a preoccupation with the numbers of women attending meetings rather than efforts to understanding the multiplicity of roles women play in their communities, particularly leadership roles” she said. “Governments need to create more opportunities for women from rural communities to actively participate in decision-making on the issues that impact their daily lives.”

The Commission on the Status of Women continues through Friday.

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