The 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65), the UN’s largest gathering on gender equality and women’s rights, opens today as an almost entirely virtual session, with the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the foreground, and preparing the ground for the forthcoming Generation Equality Forum, which will kick off in Mexico City from 29-31 March.
The two-week long gathering for UN Member States, civil society organizations, gender experts, and other international actors aims to build consensus and agree on a roadmap to advance gender equality, with the focus this year on the theme, “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”.
Recent reports on the theme have reconfirmed that the glass ceiling remains for women around the world, restricting their participation in decision-making, with women serving as Heads of State and/or Government in only 22 countries; women holding just 25 per cent of parliamentary seats, and 12 countries having no women ministers in cabinets at all. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities – from increased reports of domestic violence, unpaid care responsibilities, rates of child marriage and millions of women plunging into extreme poverty as they lose their jobs in higher numbers than men.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: “This pandemic has been the most directly discriminatory crisis the world has ever seen. It has treated most harshly those most deprived, and affected women’s lives across the world. But with firm political will to achieve fast-tracked, equal power-sharing, women and men can together address this and the other urgent challenges of our time, from climate change to conflict.”
“This is the vision of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals and the vision of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It is the vision of civil society and multitudes of young people who are already leading the way, and of all those who will join us in the Generation Equality Action Coalitions. It is surely also the vision of those assembled for the Commission on the Status of Women,” she added.
As the UN Secretary-General report published on this year’s theme underlines, for power-sharing to become today’s reality, violence against women in public life must be significantly eliminated, and social norms, access to financing, and legal and institutional frameworks, have to be transformed, so that they support women’s equal participation and decision-making. Governments should also strengthen normative, legal, and regulatory frameworks, especially the implementation of gender quotas. Enhancing women’s civil society activism is also critical for transformative change at national and global levels.
High-profile speakers including US Vice-President Kamala Harris, France Minister for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities Élisabeth Moreno, Mexico Vice-Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights Martha Delgado Peralta, European Commissioner For International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen, among others, are expected to address the Commission this year. The full list of speakers is available here.
CSW65 is an important bridge to the Generation Equality Forum, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the Governments of Mexico and France, in conjunction with youth and civil society. The Forum will kick-off in Mexico City from 29 – 31 March, and culminate in Paris from 29 June – 2 July. It is designed to inspire urgent action, commitments and investments in gender equality. An interactive virtual side event on 19 March will be a curtain-raiser to the Generation Equality Forum kick-off in Mexico.
As part of its efforts to catapult progress on gender equality, leaders of the Generation Equality Forum Action Coalitions – new and innovative partnerships including governments, feminist and youth movements and organizations, the private sector and international organizations – have unveiled the concrete action steps that they see as central to a new and bold feminist agenda within the next five years. These range from the accelerated introduction and implementation of laws and policies prohibiting all forms of gender-based violence to protect 550 million more women and girls worldwide, to introducing policy measures to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work and create at least 250 million decent care jobs or doubling the annual growth rate of funding for feminist, youth-led and grass-roots women’s groups.
The opening session of CSW65 taking place today will feature statements from global leaders, including the Chair of the 65th Commission on the Status of Women Mher Margaryan; the UN Secretary-General António Guterres; UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; civil society representative Virisila Buadromo and youth leader Renata Koch Alvarenga.
Along with the 18 official meetings that include Ministerial Round Tables, the general discussion and interactive dialogues, hundreds of side events and parallel events hosted by UN Member States, UN Agencies and civil society organizations will take place in the coming two weeks, mostly in a virtual format.
Ahead of CSW65, UN Women supported partners to organize regional consultations with Ministers, gender equality experts and civil society organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Arab States, to build consensus and action priorities towards the Commission’s outcome, which is expected to be adopted at the conclusion of the second week.