UN Women Commission ends session, with pledge to strengthen women’s leadership, participation in public life

The virtual 65th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) concluded Friday, with world leaders issuing a strong pledge for women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life and the elimination of violence against them.

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As the two-week-long session ended, the countdown began for the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico (29 – 31 March).

At CSW65, UN Member States adopted ‘Agreed Conclusions’, its main outcome document, which recognizes the need to significantly accelerate the pace of progress to ensure women’s full participation and leadership at all levels of decision-making in executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and the public sector. It also recognizes that temporary special measures, such as quotas, and increased political will are needed as an enabling pathway to this goal.

“This is the first session of the Commission on the Status of Women in 15 years to engage with the issue of women’s participation in public life and these Agreed Conclusions make important advances,” the Executive Director of UN Women, which serves as the CSW Secretariat, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said.

“The women of the world have made it very clear that the past and the status quo have not met their need for gender equality,” she said. Recalling the devastating, discriminatory impact of the pandemic, Mlambo-Ngcuka urged all Member States to move ahead rapidly to achieve equal representation.

Pakistan was represented by Dr Shireen Mazari, the human rights minister. She told the session earlier this week Pakistan firmly believes that economic growth, sustainable development, peace and prosperity can only be achieved through women empowerment and gender equality.

Mazari said, remains committed to creating an enabling and safe environment for women so that they can shatter the glass ceiling and overcome obstacles hindering them from their equal participation in decision making and public life.

Meanwhile, the Agreed Conclusions at CSW65 acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities that perpetuate multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, as well as racism, stigmatization and xenophobia. Yet, recent data show that women have been mostly absent from COVID-19 government task forces around the world — women make up only 24 percent of the 225 task force members examined across 137 countries.

The Agreed Conclusions make strong recommendations for concrete measures which can enable women’s role in decision-making, for instance: — changing laws and policies that discriminate against women and hinder their equal participation in public life;
— innovative measures to promote women as leaders, executives and managers, in all areas;

— setting targets and timelines to achieve gender balance in all government branches through relevant measures such as quotas, appointments, or training programmes;

— and encouraging political parties to nominate as many women as men candidates and promote equal leadership in their structures.

Young women are particularly underrepresented in public life and disproportionately excluded from consultations on issues that affect them, despite being involved in activities that call for broader change and address issues such as climate change and poverty.

Women under 30 years of age make up less than 1 per cent of parliamentarians globally.
Recognizing this, the Commission has agreed on the need for measures that target them: from access to education, technology and skills development, to mentorship programmes, increased financial support, and protection from violence, and recognized the benefits of early exposure to women leaders as role models, as well as of legislative and policy-making spaces.

Other recommendations include measures to eliminate, prevent and respond to all forms of violence against women and girls in public and private spaces, end impunity of perpetrators, and support victims and survivors’ full recovery, for instance through access to psychosocial support, affordable housing and employment.

Recognizing women’s important role as agents of change in responding to climate change, the agreement also stresses the need to reinforce women’s presence and leadership in all places where decisions on climate change mitigation and adaptation are taken, and to ensure that related policies, plans and programmes account for the specific needs of women and girls.

The Commission’s outcome stresses the importance of the full engagement of men and boys in this task; and of the availability of data that is disaggregated by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status, disability, geographic location, and any other characteristics relevant in national contexts.

Despite this being the first-ever mostly virtual session of the Commission, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been strong interest from both government and civil society participants, it was pointed out.

During the General Discussion high-level speakers included a Prime Minister, 3 Vice-Presidents and 93 ministers — all expressing their strong commitment to advancing gender equality, the UN said. Nearly 70 ministers from around the world participated in the Ministerial roundtables over the two weeks and more than 10,000 representatives from over 850 ECOSOC-accredited civil-society organizations registered for CSW65.

Almost 150 virtual side events were organized by UN Member States, intergovernmental organizations and UN entities, and more than 700 virtual parallel events were organized by civil society as part of the NGO CSW65 Forum.

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