From 13-24 March, global leaders, NGOs, private sector actors, multilaterals and activists from around the world gathered in New York for the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This year Simavi was among the many thousand attendees of this event focusing on the rights and empowerment of women and girls. The conclusions which came out of this platform can be used by civil society actors to hold their governments’ accountable to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.
This year the focus was on the theme “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.” This session came at a crucial time for women around the world, to secure equal opportunities and empowerment in the world of work. Simavi attended with local partners from the Going for Gold programme to ensure our topics stayed on the agenda. We recognise that the gender-specific social and economic barriers that women and girls face have a significant impact on their health and well-being. In turn, these barriers negatively affect their social and economic opportunities.
However, in order to secure women’s rights to work, many controversial factors need to be addressed including access to decent work, equal pay for work of equal value, taxation, the role of trade unions, violence against women and sexual harassment, unpaid work, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Realising women’s economic empowerment requires cross-cutting, transformative change to remove the persisting barriers of discrimination that women face in the world of work. Therefore Simavi recognises the importance of CSW and similar platforms as a mechanism for civil society to maintain pressure on governments to make advancements for women’s economic rights, health and wellbeing.
After many long days of negotiation, late on March 24 the commission adopted their agreed conclusions, summarised in the Outcome Document. Some big wins were made for women’s empowerment and gender equality this year. The commission recognised that women’s sexual and reproductive rights are fundamental for women’s economic rights to be fulfilled. The agreed language on SRHR was maintained, despite pressure from conservative groups to weaken commitments on sexual and reproductive rights. The conclusions urge governments to work to end all violence and harassment against women and girls, in both public and private spaces.
Shrinking CSO space
These successes were not made easily, or without personal costs. More than 700 civil society groups, including Simavi, signed a petition this week to raise issues of NGO access to the negotiations of CSW61. The letter cited unprecedented issues at this year’s CSW, including the removal of NGO pass holders from the building by U.N. security staff — even though some meetings were still running — and NGO participants being prevented from reaching CSW government delegates in U.N. meeting rooms. The letter was sent to U.N. Women, which put pressure on them to resolve access issues.
We thank all those who made tireless efforts to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality at this year’s CSW. While there is still a long road to travel, we welcome the agreed conclusions, recognising the impact they will have on women’s empowerment and progress towards the 2030 agenda!