Costa Rican Activist Natasha Jiménez Reporting From CEDAW in New York

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Para leer estas actualizaciones de Natasha en Español, mira: La activista costarricense Natasha Jiménez informa sobre la CEDAW en Nueva York  

This week Natasha Jiménez, an activist from Costa Rica who is a member of Mulabi, an organization that provides a space to discuss sexualities and rights in Latin America, is presenting her shadow report on LBT rights in Costa Rica at the 49th session of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in New York. IGLHRC worked with Natasha for many months on the creation of her shadow report and also provided resources so that Natasha could come to New York to conduct advocacy.

IGLHRC prioritizes work with CEDAW because monitoring its implementation has been a highly effective place for LBT activists globally to generate attention to their governments’ failings on a broad range of issues, including violence, gender roles, stereotyping, and decriminalization.

Natasha has written about the first few days of her stay in New York and will continue to write about her experiences with CEDAW. We are pleased to share her writing with you.

Days One to Three

Participation in CEDAW

The presenters from the training by IWRAW Asia Pacific, in the days prior to the presentation of the reports.

The first three days of my stay in New York were set aside for a training with International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) Asia Pacific. In this training, IWRAW shared tools to help us gain a better understanding of the CEDAW process.

We learned how to enter into the process, what to expect from each member of the CEDAW Committee, how to present our materials, and how to organize the briefing with the committee members, among other things.

These training sessions were held at a religious center [Ed: the United Nations Church Center] just steps from where all of the women invited to the training (including activists from Costa Rica, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Italy) were staying.

Day Four

Adriana Maroto, Alda Facio and Natasha carrying the sandwiches for the informal lunch with the CEDAW Commissioners.

Going to the United Nations

Even though I submitted a form to request an entrance pass to the United Nations with my preferred name, my badge was printed with my legal name (how it appears on my passport). Security officials at the UN pass office argued that it should be done this way because otherwise it would appear that two people involved.  During the informal lunch briefing that the Costa Rican Committee Members hosted later in the day, this experience helped me talk about the way trans people are denied the right to their own identity. (We also used that time to discuss the health needs of transgender and intersex people and the arbitrary arrests we are often subjected to.)

Each day NGOs from a given country (not: state NGO delegations) host a lunch briefing for all of the CEDAW Committee members. Today’s lunch was completely organized by the three NGOs from Costa Rica. We had to decide everything from what food and drinks to buy, how to get it to the room, who would moderate the table and how we would bring up and focus on priority topics.

Almost all of the CEDAW Committee members came to the lunch and they asked several questions about the experiences of average women, the experience of rural women, housewives and their pensions, distribution of wealth when a marriage dissolves, and the recognition of same-sex couples.

Some members of the CEDAW Committee, including women from Paraguay and Spain, approached me to discuss the situation of trans and intersex populations.

Presentation of the Report

Natasha Jiménez during the summary reading of the Shadow Report to the CEDAW Committee

After lunch, the three organizations from Costa Rica, including Mulabi, had a total of 15 minutes to present from our shadow reports. Fortunately, we practiced our presentations to coordinate the order and themes. Our preparation paid off: our presentations were slow and measured which, I think, also had to do with our knowledge of the topic.


At the end of the day, we held a session to speak about our experience and what we learned overall. We were all pleased with the presentation and feel that we set a good example for the other delegations.

Day Five

The Government of Costa Rica Responds

The day after the presentation of our shadow report, it was the government representatives’ turn to respond to questions from members of the CEDAW Committee. But before that, it was their duty to present the official report.

The president of INAMU answering questions from the CEDAW Committee

The Deputy Minister of Health, the President of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Director of INAMU (National Institute for Women) represented the Costa Rican government.

These representatives were questioned about the information presented in the shadow reports and each of the CEDAW articles.

The first thing the CEDAW Committee mentioned was that the state report is very long (200 pages), the information is extremely outdated (with data from 2006), and they regret that those who came from the government are not of the highest rank. For example, the the Minister of Health didn’t attend and instead sent the Deputy Minister and the Director of IMANU had not a Ministerial range.

That afternoon, after the informal lunch hosted  by the Committee of the Delegation of Zambia, the session was re-opened for further questioning of the official delegates.

The questions the CEDAW Committee members asked the state representatives from Costa Rica covered the following topics:

  • Women’s participation in politics
  • African women
  • Women with disabilities
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Sexual diversity
  • Civil unions for same sex partners
  • Trans people and their specific needs (right to choose a name and specific health care)
  • Therapeutic abortion
  • Alimony

The list goes on...

Stay tuned for more firsthand accounts of advocacy at the UN from Natasha! To see more photos that Natasha has shared with us, visit our gallery on Picasa or on FaceBook