The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Monday opened with an announcement from UN Secretary-General António Guterres that “[g]ender equality is still over 300 years away, while progress on women’s rights is ‘vanishing.'” Despite the fact that Guterres called the Commission on the Status of Women is one of the most important events in the UN’s yearly calendar, Guterres said, “[P]rogress won over decades is vanishing before our eyes.”
During his remarks, Guterres referenced the situation in Afghanistan, where women and girls have been effectively erased from public life, while also commenting on international rolling back of sexual health and reproductive rights. Guterres also indicated that the women and girls have disproportionately born the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guterres said, “From Ukraine to the Sahel, crisis and conflict affect women and girls first and worst. And at the international level, some countries now even oppose the inclusion of a gender perspective in multilateral negotiations.”
Calling gender equality of question of power, Guterres finished his statement by outlining three steps that must be taken to achieve reform:
- Education and employment access, particularly in the Global South.
- Greater participation and leadership in science and technology.
- Creating a safe digital environment for women and girls.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International (AI) echoed Guterres statements in saying women are bearing the brunt of war’s brutality in Ukraine. AI Secretary General Agnès Callamard said:
Time and time again, women bear the brunt of war’s brutality. They are consistently on the frontlines of conflict – as soldiers and fighters, doctors and nurses, volunteers, peace activists, carers for their communities and families, internally displaced people, refugees, and too often as victims and survivors.
Executive Director of the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch Macarena Sáez said it is not just authoritarian governments that violate women’s rights, like Taliban’s recent banning of women’s access to education. Sáez pointed out that democracies, like the US, have also curbed women’s rights in areas such as reproductive health. That said, Sáez commented, “But the heartier democratic institutions are, the more tools women have to fight back. In countries with a strong rule of law and functioning checks and balances, women are better able to protect their rights — and so is everyone else.”
The CSW is an UN body dedicated to “the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.” In addition to Guterres, UN member states, civil society organizations and other stakeholders gather to discuss how to further women’s rights. Monday marked the opening of the CSW’s two-week session.