Bendigo women bunker down during snow storm Stella

TWO Bendigo chief executive officers are bunkering down in their New York hotel rooms as snow storm Stella batters the United States.

The mayor of New York declared a state of emergency and ordered schools to close on Tuesday.

Annie North women’s refuge CEO, Julie Oberin, and Centre for Non Violence CEO, Margaret Augerinos, are among 8000 delegates in New York for the 61st Session of the Commission for the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan.

During the annual two-week conference,  UNCSW delegates from across the globe assist government delegations to negotiate agreed conclusions on a range of issues impacting on gender inequality worldwide.

The event has been disrupted by the severe winter storm, with the United Nations Headquarters and other venues closing on Tuesday.

“It hasn’t been as bad as was forecast in New York” Ms Oberin said.  “However it has caused havoc in other parts of the country.

“We were expecting about two feet of snow, but we didn’t get that here in New York. 

“Other parts of the country certainly got it though. 

“I understand about 200,000 homes lost power and that would have been horrific in this cold.  It was minus 7 when I went to deliver my first presentation on Monday morning.  Today the gusts of wind are ferocious.’’

Ms Oberin said people had been advised to avoid roads and footpaths, but there were “still people out braving it’’. 

“Some have had to go to work regardless,’’ she said.

“We have been watching people struggling to not slip over now that the fallen snow has become icy.  People have given up on umbrellas as they just turn inside out.  The official meetings at the UN have all been put forward a day meaning that people will have to work Saturday.’’

Ms Oberin said snow ploughs and salt trucks had been busy for most of Tuesday, trying to keep the roads clear – “but they ice over again very quickly’’. 

It’s believed more than 3000 flights have been cancelled in New York alone.

“They are calling it winter’s last hoorah” Ms Oberin said. 

“We are warm and have provisions, but we really feel for those in harder hit places including those without adequate shelter and heating. 

“It’s such a contrast from the weather we have been experiencing in Australia.’’

Ms Oberin and Ms Augerinos are attending CSW61 as part of the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance delegation. 

They are delivering a range of presentations on the 2017 theme based on the need for women’s economic security, and are supporting the Australian delegation in their negotiations towards agreed conclusions that participating countries sign on to.