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On 9th March the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) began at the United Nations in New York. Governments around the world began their discussions around key issues for women's human rights.

One contentious agenda item was the adoption by Governments of the CSW Political Declaration. This should be a strong statement of the actions that will be taken to progress women's rights in the future. It is usually adopted at the end of the two week meeting period, which gives civil society and women's organisations an opportunity to participate and lobby for key issues to be included. There has been great concern that for the first time, the Declaration was prepared prior to CSW59, and adopted on the first day.

This means that civil society and women's organisations did not have an opportunity to lobby for key issues, and as a result the Declaration was very weak and did not include a vision for the future. Representatives of women and girls with disability, including PWDA and WWDA were also very concerned that there was not one reference to women and girls with disability.

The concerns of civil society and women's organisations were strongly raised by Ms Lydia Alpizar, Executive Director of Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID). Her speech is here

After the Opening Session, PWDA and WWDA also joined other networks of women and girls with disability to meet with the UN Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and UN Women, the UN agency responsible for women’s rights. The meeting allowed us to provide advice on strategies for the inclusion of women and girls with disability in the work of UN Women. It also provided a fantastic opportunity to discuss issues and concerns for women and girls with disability in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Spain, USA, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Australia. While our political and social contexts were all different, we had many issues in common such as violence, sexual and reproductive rights, poverty and exclusion.

At the end of a long day, and along with other women’s non-government organisations, PWDA and WWDA participated in an Australian Government delegation briefing. The Australian Government delegation outlined the difficult negotiation process to come to agreement on the final Declaration, their disappointment at the exclusion of strong wording and the exclusion of references to groups of women who are particularly marginalised including women and girls with disability. Australia was one country that argued strongly for these issues.

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Ms Lydia Alpizar, Executive Director of Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID).