The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women on 24 March 2017 agreed on a roadmap to women’s full and equal participation in the economy as a vital step to achieving sustainable development as the body concluded its two-week session.
“This Commission has engaged strongly, comprehensively and constructively over the last two weeks in considering the most effective ways in which to bring about change for women in the world of work,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, formally known as the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.*
The outcome document, consisting of a set of agreed conclusions, highlights barriers that women face, such as unequal working conditions, women’s over-representation in the informal economy, gender stereotypes and social norms that reinforce women’s concentration in certain sectors, such as health and social sectors, and the uneven share of unpaid care work that women do.
This year’s Commission drew the attendance of 162 Member States, including 89 representatives at the Ministerial level. More than 3,900 representatives from 580 civil society organizations came to New York from 138 countries, attesting to the growing strength and unity of women’s voices around the world.
Member States expressed concern over the gender pay gap and the persistently low wages paid to women, which are often below decent living wages.
In the final agreement, they commit to the implementation of equal pay policies through social dialogue, collective bargaining, job evaluations and gender pay audits, among other measures.
“There has never been any excuse for the inequality that exists. Now we are seeing a healthy intolerance for inequality grow into firm and positive change,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Underlining that women’s careers should not experience any disadvantage because of pregnancy and motherhood, the outcome document stresses the need to ensure that both women and men have access to paid parental leave and to promote men’s usage of such allowances.
For the first time, the transition of informal and domestic workers into the formal economy was a key issue of discussion for the Commission, whose members agreed on the need of promoting decent work and paid care in the public and private sectors; increasing the provision of social protection and wages that guarantee an adequate standard of living; and ensuring safe working conditions for women..
This comes as a matter of concern as many migrant women employed in the informal economy and in less skilled work are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
The Commission recognized the positive contributions of migrants and called for gender-responsive migration policies that promote migrant women’s economic empowerment.
It also calls for strengthened efforts in both public and private sectors to retain women in the workforce and seek more gender balance in managerial positions.
Member States further called for an end to the practice of gender-based price differentiation, also known as the ‘pink tax’ – whereby goods and services intended for or marketed to women and girls cost more than similar items marketed to men and boys.
With the empowerment of indigenous women being the emerging theme of this session, the outcome document urges the full inclusion and development of indigenous women in economic life, including through the establishment of indigenous-owned businesses. (*SOURCE: UN).
With men still dominating even in countries that consider themselves progressive, the world needs more women leaders and more men standing up for gender equality, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres had on 13 March 2017 said.
“It is true, I am a man, but we need all men to stand up for women’s empowerment. Our world needs more women leaders. And our world needs more men standing up for gender equality,” Guterres told the Commission on Status of Women (CSW), which began its annual session this morning.
He was among the UN’s several senior leaders addressing CSW, the principal global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Guterres noted that empowerment of women is about breaking structural barriers. With the nearly one billion women entering the global economy in the next decade, empowerment will unleash the potential of all these women and girls – and they will lead the world to a new future.
He also cited one study showing that women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth over the next decade.
Furthermore, he stressed, when women meaningfully participate in peace processes, the chance of sustainable peace goes up by 35 per cent over 15 years. He asked UN Member States to move beyond the current level, where women make up just 3 per cent of UN peacekeepers.
“We are all better off when we open doors of opportunity for women and girls: in classrooms and boardrooms, in military ranks and at peace talks, in all aspects of productive life,” he said.
Promising that the UN and he personally will support efforts for gender equality, Mr. Guterres said “Do not let us off the hook. Keep our feet to the fire.”
He announced that he is joining the International Gender Champions, a global network that brings women and men decision-makers together to break down gender barriers, encouraging other senior leaders to do the same.
With its priority theme ‘Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work,’ CSW’s sixty-first session will run through 24 March.
In her address, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted a slow progress in gender equality.
“The much-needed positive developments are not happening fast enough, nor are they reaching tipping point in numbers of lives changed,” she said. “Let us agree to constructive impatience.”
She pointed out that more than half of all women workers around the world – and up to 90 per cent in some countries – are informally employed, including care givers whose other life opportunities can be limited while they perform the unappreciated and valuable unpaid work of care at home. There are 190 million women in the informal sector in India alone, she noted.
Women are also clearly earning consistently less than men – a gap that women regard as ‘daylight robbery,’ Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
There are numerous gaps exist, including in access to digital technologies. Investment in a pipeline of girls well educated in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics subjects could increase the proportion of women in the digital industry workforce from the current 25 per cent and build skills matches for the ‘new collar’ jobs, she said.
“What you agree to do during this CSW could be an accelerator for the implementation and achievement of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development],” she said.
In his remarks, General Assembly President Peter Thomson said that all of his grandchildren are girls. “As they grow toward adulthood, I cannot abide the thought that they will not enjoy full and equal rights with their male peers,” he said.
Mr. Thomson said he will turn to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to find faith and be assured that his granddaughters will not live in a world still lacking the basic human right of equality between men and women.
“The preamble of the Agenda, its introduction, its transformational vision, and its shared principles and commitments are all suffused with the logic of gender equality,” he said, noting that paragraph 20 declares that achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible, if half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities.
Sustainable Development Goal 5 specifically commits all to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, he added.
The Committee is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Most of the 27 concluding observations that CEDAW Committee adopted since July 2016, link specific SDGs and targets, to relevant articles of the Convention, she said.
“Linking the Convention to the 2030 Agenda has great potential in advancing women’s economic empowerment and enables the Committee to support States in implementing the SDGs,” she said. (**SOURCE: UN).