Jacquie Lightcap is a member of the Topeka chapter of the League of Women Voters and last year attended the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 63) as the League’s Midwest Region observer. She visited the Great Bend LWV chapter Tuesday afternoon and reported on her four-day visit to the UN last March and efforts member nations of the UN and associated non-governmental organizations are making to increase the equality of women worldwide.
Lightcap learned last year that the League had maintained a presence at the UN since it started, and that all members across the country have an opportunity to go to the UN as an observer.
There is an application process, and not all that apply are chosen, but Lightcap was accepted to attend the 2019 CSW event as one of 20 delegates. She serves on a purely volunteer basis, and shared that she footed the expenses for her visit entirely on her own.
Her one requirement was to come back and share about her experience, so she has been visiting Kansas Leagues since her return, and by January anticipates she will have visited at least half the chapters in the state.
In 1948, the first major CSW action was the Universal Declaration of Women on Human Rights. President Truman appointed a League member from New York, Judge Dorothy Kenyon, to the CSW. That year, the commission argued against referring solely to men as “humanity.” The wording was changed from “all men are created equal,” to “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and race.” It was through those negotiations that the League left its footprint at the very beginning, Lightcap said.
The CSW typically lasts 11 days. Observers are asked to attend for a minimum of four to five days. Her time there was eye opening, and from it she understood better how she as an American woman fits into the global network of women.
“We saw women as far as the eye could see, in all their native dress. There were women of every size, every shape, and every color,” she said. “To see that, all of those women working together, that is what I hope to bring back to Kansas.”
In addition to the regional delegates, the LWV also has a permanent full-time observer, Rosalie Keech. She worked in New York’s financial district, and after 9/11, she retired and began her voluntary UN service. She attends as many of the UN events as possible, Lightcap said. Keech was the leader of their March 2019 delegation.
One focus of the 63rd CSW was preparations for next year’s Beijing+25, an anniversary celebration of the 1994 Beijing Platform for Action, and its resulting statement of women’s rights for all women and girls across the globe. Critical areas of concern were identified, with access to education, health care, and participation in decision making in the political and economic sphere the main components.
There’s still lots of work to be done, but some progress has been realized, Lightcap said.
Great Bend League member Janice Walker attended the event as a member of the National Organization for Women in 1994.
“It was overwhelming when I was in Beijing,” Walker said. “We were able to attend one of the side meetings open to NGOs, and there was a big festival at the arena, and there was cultural dancing and singing.”
Lightcap agreed, the first few days at the UN can be overwhelming, and that in part is why she applied to return for CSW64 next year. 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the 25th anniversary of Beijing Platform for Action, and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the committee United Nations Women.
“The application process was more daunting, so I’m pleased I was chosen,” Lightcap said. “I really feel I’ll be better prepared next year.”
The women attending CSW each year are intent on having the governments of the world hear what they have to say. It is the only organization like it in the world, Lightcap said.