UN’s Largest Meeting on Gender Equality Begins amidst Economic Uncertainties, Exclusionary Politics, Push-back on Civil Society, and Rising Labour Informality


Human Wrongs Watch

Spotlight on improving social protection, inadequate public services and gender-blind infrastructure; identifying policy actions critical to propel gender equality and transform women’s lives

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New York, 8 March 2019 (UN Women)* – Against the backdrop of a volatile global economy, rising conflict and instability, rapid population ageing, shrinking democratic spaces and push-back on women’s rights, the UN Commission on the Status of Women is set to begin next week at the UN Headquarters in New York.

This is the UN’s largest gathering on gender equality and women’s rights, and the single largest forum for UN Member States, civil society organizations and other international actors to build consensus, renew commitment and agree on better policy solutions.

The forthcoming 63rd session of the Commission (CSW63) from 11- 22 March will focus on the priority theme, “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”.

The review theme is “Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development”.

“Good social protection policy and well-planned infrastructure can be equalizers for women. However, the fact that 740 million women are working with little or no social protection and access to public services, tells us that there is still a giant gap in the way that the women of the world are supported. This needs investment and policy change that deliberately supplies what is currently missing for women,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director.

“This year the CSW will focus on issues at the heart of what matters in the daily lives of women and girls. By setting new global standards to achieve gender equality, we are working to empower all women and girls to realize their full potential. We want an ambitious agreement on social protection, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure,” said Geraldine Byrne Nason, Chair of the Bureau for the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, and Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN.

“In focusing on core challenges like affordable childcare, healthcare, education, maternity protection, pensions and safe transport, the CSW can have a transformative impact on the realities faced by women and girls around the world,” she reiterated.

Heightened global attention on gender equality in recent years through legal reform, global marches, movements such as #MeToo, and spotlights on gender pay gap and corporate walkouts are critical, as only 11 years remain to achieve the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, including Gender Equality Goal 5. If the current slow pace of change continues, it will take a staggering 108 years to close the gender gap.

Facts and Figures

CSW63’s priority theme responds to the precarious situation that women and girls continue to face globally. According to the Report of the UN Secretary-General and research:

  • 740 million women currently make their living in the informal economy. They have limited access to social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure that could increase their productivity and income security.
  • More than 50 per cent of urban women and girls in developing countries live in conditions where they lack at least one of these basic human needs: access to clean water, improved sanitation facilities, durable housing, and sufficient living area.
  • Women do 2.6 times more unpaid care and domestic work than men, and only 41 per cent of the world’s mothers with new-borns receive maternity benefits.
  • The global gender gap in access to old-age pensions stands at 10.6 percentage ; in 2016 68.4 per cent of men, above retirement age, had access to a pension compared to 57.8 per cent of women above retirement age.
  • One in three women are likely to face violence in their lifetimes, but public services, urban planning and transport systems are rarely planned with women’s safety and mobility in mind.
  • Critical infrastructure, such as safe sanitation, is lacking in 23 percent of the world’s schools, disproportionately affecting adolescent girls with menstrual hygiene needs.
  • Women’s access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services has improved, but the quality of care often remains wanting. For example, rural women’s access to skilled birth attendance is 20 per cent lower than that of urban women; while poor women’s access to modern contraceptives is 19 per cent lower than that of rich women.

The way forward

Social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure can respond to these challenges. The 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) will discuss key issues that can bring sustainable change in women’s safety, health, paid work, education, leisure and rest.

This includes, among others: social protection benefits such as old-age pensions, child and family benefits, maternity protection, unemployment support; quality public services such as health, education, and public safety; and sustainable infrastructure, including access to clean energy, safe drinking water, safe designing of transport systems and urban spaces.

A key dimension of the discussion will focus on how such benefits and services can reduce and redistribute women’s unpaid care and domestic work.

The forum will provide concrete recommendations on the way forward, calling for stronger laws, investments in gender-responsive infrastructure such as transport and urban planning that work for women and girls, expansion of quality public services that are affordable, extension of care services, improvement in women’s employment opportunities, their working conditions, organizing and collective bargaining rights, and improving data and evidence.

Representing a steady increase in participation from last year, more than 9000 representatives from over 1030 civil society organizations have registered to attend this year’s session.

Along with the 17 official meetings that include Ministerial Round Tables, high-level interactive events and expert panels, over 280 side events hosted by Member States and UN Agencies, and 400 parallel events hosted by civil society organizations are scheduled to take place.

Ahead of CSW63, UN Women together with partners, organized regional consultations with Ministers, gender equality experts and civil society organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean, in Asia-Pacific,Africa, and Arab States, to build consensus and action priorities towards the Commission’s outcome and agreements, which will be adopted at the end of the second week.

Related links:

Events at the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 11-22 March 2019

Official meetings of the Commission are listed here: http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw63-2019/official-meetings

Live webcasts:http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/csw/webcasts; and http://webtv.un.org/

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