Empowering and Supporting Mothers: CSW63 Conference Week 1

| March 12, 2019

March 11th, 2019 was the first day of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women Conference held by the United Nations in New York City. The purpose of this is to discuss policy and legislation that will provide rights and empowerment to women across the globe. I have had the privilege of attending this Conference on the behalf of the International Youth Coalition and listening in on some incredibly insightful discussions regarding topics such as sexual violence against women, empowering Motherhood, and the importance of the traditional family.

While every event was full of great insight, important discussion, and productive debate, the event that captivated my attention the most was hosted by Finland, Zambia, and the African Union. This event informed the public on Finland and Zambia’s efforts to empower women by supporting motherhood and what it means to have social protection granted by your government. Paivi Sillanaukee, the minister for Social Affairs and Health in Finland presented an insightful background into the services available for women in Finland. These services include financial support for and within the family, shared responsibility within the family, and a service called baby box that is a delivery of essentials for mothers that are newly pregnant and preparing for motherhood. In these boxes are things such as baby clothes, sheets, blankets, and other essentials and in order to be eligible for these boxes, women must attend a clinic within a certain time frame of finding out about pregnancy and get regularly checked up. This is a great step forward into an example that other countries can take into consideration when thinking of how women can be supported in motherhood.

When speaking on the subject of empowering women as mothers and the subject of motherhood in general, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen with Plan International brought up during the discussion that while we must focus on women and adults when talking about motherhood and women empowerment, we must also focus on the girl-child and the reality that age does matter when discussing how to approach these intense subjects of motherhood. She stated that “All mothers are not grown up. Many girls give birth around the age of 15. While it is important to focus on the well-being of the mother and the child, many of the girls become mothers are still children themselves.” When discussing Finland’s methods of providing affordable and reliable daycare, health care clinics for pregnant women and mothers, and the encouragement of gender equality in the work force as well as in the household it is very important to understand that there are still many things that must be discussed and challenged in order for positive change to take place.

Abortion is completely legal in the country of Finland and their statement on the issue is that “It is a mother’s decision to choose IF and WHEN she wants to become and mother and HOW many children she wants to have.” Abortions are included in Finland’s health care services and when confronted on why abortion should not be considered “health care” due to the risks involved, they stated that they provide mental health services to those feeling guilty about their decision to terminate a pregnancy. Many things about Finland’s stance is honorable as well as desirable, yet we must not forget that advocacy does not take breaks. Especially in scenarios such as this one that I was placed in, the initial policies and legislature seems to be in my favor, yet there are many underlying agendas and goals to a certain event without even realizing it.

The dilemma of abortion was essentially disregarded in the floor discussion and diluted by all of the other many noble accomplishments made by the country of Finland. A common theme has come up in nearly every event that I have attended thus far, and that is that because we have come so far in efforts for gender equality and social protection, we must push for completeness of human rights. The underlying agenda is that abortion is becoming normalized. Finland’s attempt to show that they have successful examples of discounted daycare, free health services, and financial support for mothers, are to overshadow that there is still the issue of abortion at the root. In a room full of hundreds of women it has been intimidating to advocate for the worldview that seems to be the minority, yet I am seeing first hand of the importance of it. Much like America, Finland has shown many great accomplishments in ensuring that women feel supported and empowered, but they must know that this is possible without the encouragement of abortion.

This is just one of the many events attended so be on the look out for additional reports on what is going on inside of the UN at CSW63 in New York City.