Women@theTable was conceived in 2014 after an inspiring and searing encounter with Julienne Lusenge, storied Congolese women’s human rights defender, who was leading a delegation of extraordinary women from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London. Speaking about women’s efforts to end the decades long conflict Julienne explained that (basically) you need to be a man with a gun to be invited to make peace at the table.
BACK IN GENEVA
The Oak Foundation signaled its support to try a new approach for a movement building group to propel extraordinary women onto their rightful place and the gender agenda more firmly unto the global stage.
In 2015, Women@theTable officially became an Association under Swiss Law with the purpose to help more women have more amplified voices, more seats, and more influence at decision-making tables wherever those decision-making tables may be in governance, economy, technology, sustainability and peace.
We work vertically (from the frontline roots to the tips – from the market woman to the central banker), and strategically across chosen sectors bringing voices where few are heard or have influence, building new platforms, and knitting together new coalitions for change.
THE FIRST INITIATIVE
w@tt approached the US Mission in Geneva to host a Salon Series to discuss various issues in the women’s rights space. These Salons, which became a tremendous success, were curated to gather high level actors with a broad spectrum of portfolios to strategize and create space for more women at the table.
OUR FIRST SALON
Our first Salon, March 2015, in participation with The Future She Deserves, an initiative of the US Mission, curated and moderated by w@tt founder Caitlin Kraft-Buchman dealt with Women’s Leadership. The Salon addressed the catalytic question: What are the barriers to women having visibility and influence in corridors of power from the grassroots to the top of International Geneva?
Salon goers dove into conversation. Ambassadors from New Zealand, Chile, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Belgium, Denmark, the EU; DCMs from Canada, Spain, Tanzania, The Netherlands, Sweden; Directors from ICRC, UNOG, UNHCR, UNECE, WFF, GCERF, IPU, WMO, WIPO, WHO and other Geneva organizations; as well as Geneva civil society represented by the Oak Foundation, Womanity Foundation, and Geneva Call participated in the debate. Rapporteurs read out each table’s insights and it became clear that there was interest and will to create some sort of Champion group.
Immediately afterwards the Directors from UNOG who attended the Salon called to say that the Director-General would be interested in a Champion network, and so the International Geneva Gender Champions began with its three founders the Director-General of United Nations Office at Geneva Michael Møller; Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto US Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organizations; and Caitlin Kraft-Buchman Executive Director of Women@theTable. Listen to a podcast about the creation of the platform here.
BECOMING THE INTERNATIONAL GENDER CHAMPIONS
International Geneva Gender Champions held its announcement launch July 1, 2015 at the Palais des Nations with over 30 Ambassadors and Heads of International Organizations. As of January 2018 we numbered 207 Ambassadors, Heads of International Organizations, NGOs, and CEOs based in Geneva, including a growing number of Alumni. A New York group soft launched October 2016 in preparation for a hard launch at CSW in New York March 2017 where the new Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, signed on (again as he was one of our first Champions in Geneva as High Commissioner of Refugees).
We changed our name to International Gender Champions – Geneva to ably include New York (International Gender Champions – New York), and our anticipated expansion to other cities and sectors in 2018, including International Gender Champions – Vienna, and International Gender Champions-Nairobi.
We have begun to effect great change in the conversation about Gender in Geneva, the composition of panels, work on balanced delegations, how to effect systemic change, and at the very least upped the profile of deserving and brilliant women in Geneva for whom a place was made at the panel table due to the initiative.