… what if it was the Commission on the Status of Men?

Jane Gabriel

“You are absolutely the last one!” said the woman trying to control the queue into the UN press and ID centre as she slammed the door behind me and locked it firmly. She glared at all of us and shouted “And don’t unlock the door under any circumstances”!

As I squeezed into the crowded room I thought, just for a minute, that word was spreading that journalists were turning up to cover the CSW. But I was wrong, everyone else seemed to be from an NGO and the press room inside was empty. Valerie Semplicino said the only journalists who had asked for accreditation were from Spain, Korea, the Netherlands and Iran. The only male journalist in the world here covering the CSW is from Iran.

When Valerie started her job in 1999 she told me that the journalists formed a “line that never stopped, it went on for days and days, it was constant, it was crushing”. They’d had to move the press accreditation office outside into a trailer in the garden in order to deal with everyone”. Those days have gone she said “but I cannot even begin to guess why”.

As you enter the main lobby of the UN the first thing you see is an exhibition called “I am powerful” – but read the text below and it says “a celebration of women’s potential – and a call for action”. My heart sank again; the irony must surely be lost on the exhibition’s organisers: the wording could have been from 1946 when the CSW was first created.

As I headed off for my first two sessions called ‘Violence against Women and the girl child’ and ‘Stop Rape Now’, I thought ‘Yes, we are powerful, but we certainly do not have the power’. I suddenly thought about what would happen if this UN meeting was the Commission on the Status of Men. The journalists would surely come flocking and Valerie would be out in the the trailer like before. I for one, would queue all round the block for as long as it took for the chance to report on the status of men – and what needs to be done…

More later from the two sessions on violence against women and girls.


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