Driving change for women’s empowerment is everyone’s responsibility

The importance of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women in promoting gender equality and economic empowerment is growing fast. And its message of inclusive economies is resonating as a powerful way to break the cycle of poverty globally.

News | 14 March 2017
In his opening address to the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the UN Secretary-General António Guterres thanked the assembled delegates for raising their voices for women’s equality and dignity around the world.

“Every day, you are on the frontlines for fairness – for a more just and decent world. I have seen the difference you make in every corner of our globe. You are an inspiration. As you champion equality, you make the world better for all” stated the Secretary-General.

This year’s CSW is convened with the theme of “Women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work”. The conference will convene several Ministerial level events on topics such as equal pay work of equal value, technology and innovation for women’s economic empowerment, effective policies in informal and non-standard work as full and productive employment and decent work for all.

The Secretary-General closed his statement by announcing his decision to join the International Gender Champions, a global network that brings women and men decision-makers together to break down gender barriers, encouraging other senior leaders to do the same.

The Chair of the 61th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Brazilian Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, called on participants to build on gains that had been made, including the 2016 road map for the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

He said the session must provide guidance on eliminating work-related structural barriers and ensuring that women took full advantage of new opportunities. Men and boys must engage as gender advocates for transforming social norms, he said, which required challenging “rigid” notions of masculinity.

In her opening statement, the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said that although there has been some progress in women’s rights and empowerment we have also see an erosion of gains. “There is under-representation of women in decision-making at all levels. They therefore have insufficient voice to drive the nature and extent of change needed.”

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted the difficulties that women continue to face and that are being left behind at a time when they are essential to the achievement of the sustainable development goals. She spoke of the plight of women refugees and migrants, those affected by gender-based violence, including workplace sexual harassment, the pay gap, the myriad difficulties of women working in the informal sector, as well as women’s role as care givers and domestic workers.

In closing she called on member States to accelerate the promise of the SDGs. “We must make, and can make, the world of work, work better for women, transforming economies and realizing rights.”

Representing the Director-General of the ILO, Manuela Tomei, Director of the Conditions of Work and Equality Department said that “the quest for women’s economic empowerment will be lost or won in the world of work. It will be reflected in whether and how women gain entry in the labour market and the terms of their engagement in the world of work - whether in fields or factories, service centres, households or boardrooms.”

“Inclusive job creation, education and training also remain important objectives of the policy agenda. At the same time the role of collective voice and representation in advancing women’s empowerment is fundamental” Ms. Tomei stated.

She announced the latest finding of the ILO-Gallup poll survey undertaken in 142 countries which revealed that most women and men around the globe prefer that women have paid jobs. However, the balance between work and family was consistently pointed to as one of the top challenges facing women in paid jobs.

At the conclusion of CSW on 24 March, the Agreed Conclusions, based on the Secretary-General’s Report to the conference and enhanced by the inputs of member States, the UN system, civil society and other key groups, will be provide a call to action and roadmap for the achievement of the dual goals of women economic empowerment and gender equality.