Two members of the Baha’i community participated as delegates in the recent 62nd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, held in New York from March 12 to 23, 2018. Mary Darling and Esther Maloney were part of a delegation of the Baha’i International Community’s United Nations Office.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is part of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and it exists to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. The annual gathering brings together non-governmental organizations and representatives of Member States to discuss efforts intended to promote the advancement of women globally. Every year it attracts several thousands of participants from around the world.
The theme of the CSW this year was the empowerment of rural women and girls.
The Baha’i International Community contributed to the CSW with a written statement, calling for an expanded conception of women’s empowerment. It also organized a number of side events, among some 250 parallel meetings held throughout the Commission to touch on various themes.
One BIC event was a panel entitled, “The Role of Media in Advancing Gender Equality,” at which Ms. Darling and Ms. Maloney spoke alongside Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist and writer and the founder of the social media movement “My Stealthy Freedom.” The event was at full capacity.
Ms. Darling, who runs an independent media studio in Toronto, reflected on the power of the media to effect real change, “by focusing on constructive, unifying and cooperative undertakings… [to] demonstrate humanity’s capacity to work together to meet the enormous challenges facing it.” Ms. Maloney referred to her experience as the director of a grassroots media project, and emphasized the importance of telling “stories of resilience and incredible strength.”
Another parallel event supported by the Baha’i International Community’s United Nations Office examined the role of media in promoting women’s rights to freedom of religion and expression. Hosted by the UN NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the panel explored the ways in which women’s rights to freedom of religion and expression are presented by the media, as well as the ways in which the media can help women realize their right to the freedoms of religion and expression. Ms. Darling reflected on both the importance of the stories told by media producers, as well as the cultures and practices created with media studios themselves. She noted that it is not enough to tell empowering stories, that female producers and actors also need to work in full and supportive partnership with men.
Reflecting on the contributions of the Baha’i International Community delegation to the CWS, Saphira Rameshfar, a Representative of the United Nations office, stated, “the CSW events demonstrated that, in addition to capacity building, we must find answers to the needs of this day. We need to determine solutions to problems never before faced, which will require answers never before arrived at. In so doing, we need to ensure that the experiences and perspectives of women and men - all of humanity - are heard.