Women clad in different outfits, they rush through in and out of UN corridors from one session to another, speeches and presentations are delivered with passion and power, one is torn for choice as different events happen at the same, women and men caucus in small and big groups, while others posture for selfies; this is just but a glimpse of what you ostensibly encounter when you are at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
Reflecting on the just concluded 61st CSW one wonders why thousands of women continue annually flock the UN during the Month of March. The CSW held under different priority and review themes, seeks to review progress undertaken by different member states in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including subsequent reviews (Beijing +5 +10+15 +20), as well as emerging issues. And most importantly is the commitment to undertake actions to accelerate progress and promote women’s enjoyment of their rights in political, economic and social spheres.
There is more to this flurry, for two weeks (13th -25th March 2017) different interest groups braved the cold and blizzard to influence the outcome document of the 61st CSW held under the Priority theme “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work” and review theme “Challenges and Achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls”
Working to influence the outcome document the NGOCSW/Africa an umbrella body led by a Committee to which Akina Mama wa Afrika serves as Communications Secretary mobilized African women to lobby governments on key priorities. The policy recommendations strongly called for the regulation of the private sector, recognition of the link between sexual and reproductive health and rights to women’s economic empowerment, support for the ratification and implementation of ILO conventions specifically the ILO Declaration on the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Domestic workers Convention, 2011 (No 189), recognition, redistribution and reduction of the burden of unpaid care work, curbing of illicit financial flows were among the list of our priorities as African women. As the two weeks drew to a close, the negotiations kept getting tougher by the day with some governments falling back on some of their very own commitments and positions while others stuck their “guns”, pushing forward issues that are critical for women’s economic empowerment.
While we may not have secured all our asks to the letter, we had some gains that deserved tremendous applause at the adoption of the Agreed Conclusions on the 24th of March 2017. The Commission recognized the need to secure the rights of indigenous women, called for the promotion of a socially responsible and accountable private sector, elimination of all forms of violence and harassment against women of all ages in the world of work in public and private spheres. The outcome further emphasized the need for safe working conditions and equal pay for equal work or work of equal value, a call to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action were among the gains made during this year’s CSW.
Certainly we could have done better with stronger recommendations to address climate change, global economic fiscal and trade architecture, including the establishment of a global tax body, regulation and enforcement of gender just trade agreements. As if that was not bad enough the adoption of the conclusions with reservations from some member states and bodies (United States, Guyana, Yemen and the Holy See) further reinforced the greater challenges ahead in our struggle to liberate women and girls throughout the world.
“It is unfortunate that our governments come to the CSW each year with an agreed position from Addis Ababa, but when they reach in New York there is always a diversion on already agreed priorities…a true demonstration of the divide between capital and the New York Missions,” Ms. Eunice Musiime, Executive Director, Akina Mama wa Afrika
As we celebrate these gains we are reminded of a more uphill task; a call to ensure that we localize the agreed conclusions, and as women’s rights organizations we have a critical role play in ensuring that we hold our governments accountable to these commitments. The 61st Agreed Conclusions should not be shelved away lest we perpetuate gender inequalities and fail our aspirations to save the many Alems of this world that Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director vehemently referred to in her call for us to go out and be our best at the official closure of the CSW.
Communications & Advocacy Officer,
Akina Mama wa Afrika