U.N. Commission on the Status of Women Begins

From March 1 – March 12, the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will be held at the United Nations in New York, emphasizing equal rights and equal opportunities for women world wide.

It has been 15 years since Governments from around the world adopted The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995. Among the 12 critical areas of concern specified in the Platform, much has been achieved. However, many issues such as gender stereotypes, unequal responsibilities and violence against women still stand in the way of full gender equality and global empowerment of women.

In the beginning of this month, the Commission on the Status of Women will undertake a fifteen-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Countries both large and small will be able to share their experiences and good practices on the topic of women’s rights. The review is seen as an important step in overcoming the remaining obstacles and new challenges faced by women, including those related to the Millennium Development Goals.

The Platform for Action covered 12 critical areas of concern: poverty, education and training, health, violence against women, armed conflict, the economy, power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights, media, the environment, and the girl child. All areas will be discussed at the review and a number of issues have been identified which are affecting the progress of the Beijing Platform for Action.

Gender stereotypes

Negative gender stereotypes continue to lie at the heart of many challenges and violations of rights faced by women, including violence against women and lack of access to education. In all countries gender stereotyping remains a major obstacle to gender equality. The prevalence of negative gender stereotypes based on societal beliefs and attitudes affects women and constrains their opportunities and choices.

Stereotypical assumptions about women in the labour market, for example, have lead to occupational segregation and a gender wage gap in many countries.

Combating such stereotypes requires States to adopt a range of strategies, from revising school curricula, to holding training programmes which dispel stereotypes on women’s leadership abilities, to instigating awareness-raising campaigns for the general public on women’s rights.

Unequal responsibilities

It has become increasingly apparent that women are far more likely than men to be living in poverty. Women’s unequal access to economic and financial resources has a negative impact on their well-being and a ripple effect on their families and the economic growth of their communities.

Women continue to be responsible for most domestic and caregiving work in many countries. This unequal sharing of responsibilities has a negative impact on educational and employment choices, and limits women’s involvement in public life.

The role of men and boys

Limited involvement by men and boys in the promotion of women’s rights has continued to restrain gender equality. Building support for social change can only be achieved when men and boys are actively engaged, for instance, in measures to eliminate violence against women and overcome stereotypes.

Furthermore, the provision of positive male role models serves to instill in both men and boys the respect for women’s and girls’ rights and the ability to challenge stereotypical behavior.

Violence against women

Over the last decade, violence against women has become a priority issue at global, national and regional levels. A growing number of States have strengthened and adopted comprehensive legal, policy, and institutional frameworks to end violence against women and girls. Despite these advances, violence against women is arguably a global pandemic. The problem remains universal, with women and girls affected by violence in every region and every country.

Implementation and challenges

Multiple global crises, including the economic and financial crisis, the food and energy crises and the challenge of climate change have had an adverse impact on the achievement of internationally-agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and have raised doubts about current approaches to development. It is, therefore, an opportune time to rethink and modify policy approaches, strategies and actions to ensure a more equitable, gender-sensitive and sustainable pattern of growth and development.

Although the link between the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is increasingly recognized at a policymaking level, further work is needed to translate this awareness into concrete action.

Recent evidence demonstrates that progress for women and girls under the Goals, as well as overall progress in implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, has been very uneven and has produced inadequate results, including in areas of poverty reduction, provision of full employment and decent work, education, including literacy, and maternal health.

United Nation Desa