At the 59th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) here at the UN in New York, we are surrounded by familiar themes and discussions. Delegates rush between meetings, working groups and consultations, discussing issues as diverse as child marriage, safeguarding girls in conflict zones, school related gender-based violence or education financing.
However, despite this multiplicity of focal areas, there is still a common theme to our work this year and a common message being spread from podiums and meeting tables alike; the ingrained and harmful social norms which have held women and girls back from achieving their full potential must be eradicated.
Nowhere was this message more strongly heard than in the US premiere of India’s Daughter last Monday night.
With the Plan-supported film marking the start of the CSW with a star-studded event attracting hundreds of guests, line-ups spread around the block with people wanting to celebrate the life and mourn the death of one remarkable woman. However, this film was about much more than just young Jyoti Singh. Director and Plan ambassador Leslee Udwin created a story that reflected the social norms that directly contribute to such tragedies.
"A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy," Mukesh Singh, one of the 6 rapists convicted in the 2012 attack, says in the documentary, because "a decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night."
The film reveals several of these shocking but ingrained cultural norms that continue to persist among our societies, and it paints with vivid detail the thought processes of the perpetrators who commit these crimes. Only by exposing the attitudes and beliefs that result in violence against women can we address and prevent that violence from occurring.
The important dialogue that this film kicked off and the high-level attention and endorsement that it has received, has truly set the tone for these 2 critical weeks as decision-makers from around the world join together to shape and influence the post-2015 gender agenda.
Advocating for lasting change
The Plan delegation at CSW59, made up of dozens of committed gender, child and education experts from across our global family, has been committed to advocating for lasting change, which means ensuring that incorporating men and boys, engaging with youth and education access are all critical priority areas.
We are empowered by the resilience shown by Jyoti’s parents and the young people that flooded the streets of Delhi in the aftermath of her brutal murder.
In doing so, we can ensure that not only the symptoms, but also the root causes of violence, harmful practices and discrimination are addressed.
While India’s Daughter was undoubtedly a harrowing film that left most viewers in tears, it also is a film that gives us strength. We are empowered by the resilience shown by Jyoti’s parents and the young people that flooded the streets of Delhi in the aftermath of her brutal murder.
Jyoti lived her life regardless of the social norms that were all around her. Asking her father to put the money he had saved for her marriage into her education instead, she showed strength and courage that we here at CSW59 have seen repeated over and over again in the young people around us.
Jyoti’s spirit was seen last week when 16-year-old Plan delegate Patricia spoke to government leaders about overcoming the stigma and abuse experienced as a child with visual impairment. It was seen when teens Nohelia and Gema from Plan communities in rural Ecuador took to the stage in front of their country ambassador to share their aspirations to be a surgeon and a congresswomen.
CSW59 may have started with sorrow as we came together to share Jyoti’s story, but it will conclude with a renewed commitment to embrace the resilience and strength of India’s Daughter.
At Plan, we commit to renewing our efforts to address the damaging social norms and structures that enabled such a tragedy and will continue to support young people like Nohelia, Gema and Patricia to ensure that they reach the full potential that was denied to Jyoti.