In a world where violence, poverty, hunger, political corruption, terrorism, torture, slavery, abuse and injustice threaten the security and dignity of human life on a daily basis, it’s women who hold the keys to unlocking a better, more decent future for humanity. That’s why nearly 11,000 people gathered at the UN Headquarters in New York City, March 9 – 15, for the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59). Dignitaries, delegates, ambassadors, advocates, experts on women’s issues, survivors and role models all gathered in one place pushing towards one common goal – to advance gender equality worldwide. A key theme of the session was “50/50 by 2030”, a bold and urgent target.
In the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon this year’s session was critical to the advancement of peace worldwide:
“We are here because 2015 is a vital year for advancing the cause of gender equality. If the new development agenda is to be truly transformative, women must be at its center and front.
As women thrive, so will we all. If girls are held back, the whole world feels the pain.
Women continue to suffer disproportionately from the economic crisis, from the impacts of climate change, from the displacement caused by conflict, persecution and so much else.
Extremist groups continue to viciously and systematically attack girls and women. The international community needs to translate its outrage into aid, services, support and justice.
Empowered women and girls are the best drivers of growth, the best hope for reconciliation, and the best buffer against radicalization of youth and the repetition of cycles of violence.” Click here for full text.
CSW59 officially marked 20 years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action. This landmark agreement has been a guiding charter for the international community, calling for the cooperation of governments, NGOs, and civilians to take action to ensure the rights of women and girls in 12 key areas. Gender equality by 2030 is an explicit goal of the Beijing Platform for Action, and while much has been achieved for women and girls in the past 20 years, including more access to education, maternal health improvements, and more women leading businesses, a brief review of the day’s top news stories will tell you, there is still significant work to be done. Women around the world, but particularly those in poverty, still face lack of equal rights, extreme violence, and oppression. The impact of this affects all of us, as lack of equality perpetuates cycles of poverty, crime and injustice for both men and women. With thousands of people gathered at CSW59, there was a specific focus on assessing and reaffirming the commitment to the goals established at the Beijing Conference 20 years ago.
Over the years, the UN has sought to keep gender equality on the agenda. In 2000, the UN General Assembly affirmed its commitment to gender equality as essential to international relations in what is known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – a set of “time-bound targets” and priorities that address some (but not all) of the 12 key areas for development from the Beijing Platform for Action. While the MDGs elicited frustration and criticism from many because they left out key goals from the Beijing Platform, the MDGs intent was to narrowly focus on specific and hopefully attainable solutions to gender issues. In September, the UN will convene to develop a set of new action oriented goals called Sustainable Development Goals which will build upon the MDGs. While there is certainly momentum and intention from the international community, progress towards 50/50 by 2030 has been slow and we hope that September’s meetings will spark action and progress.
Achieving gender equality will require both men and women to engage in addressing gender issues, as former United States Secretary of State and First Lady, Hillary Clinton notably stated, “women’s rights are human rights”. Rema Dupont, Founder of The Sherrill Foundation and member of the Board of Directors of the United Nations Women for Peace Association, calls for a world where human dignity is the focus.
“I see a future where men and women stand together creating a revolution for change to end violence against women and girls.
A future where men will stand up and show their fathers, their sons, their brothers and their friends what it is to truly be a man.
There are already promising signs of change around the world. From the thousands of men who joined our UNWFP association march in NYC last month, to the Turkish men wearing mini skirts to protest the rape of a 20 year old girl.
This is not a women’s issue, it is a Human Rights issue. It is about human dignity for all of us.”
While policies, goals, agreements, marches, speeches and gatherings are critical to harnessing collective accountability and momentum, ultimately change is going to happen when men and women at the community level agree to change behaviors and adapt long standing cultural systems. With the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millenium Development Goals as guideposts, World Vision and Strong Women Strong World have been and continue to be committed to promoting gender equality at the community and grassroots level. Fatuma Hashi, Director of Gender and Development at World Vision international states:
“ Over the years, World Vision has been dedicated to helping children, both boys and girls and their communities reach their full potential and empowering women by addressing the root causes of poverty, including gender inequality. WV recognizes the value of women, men, boys, and girls in the path to sustainable development and continues to prioritize gender as a cross-cutting theme.
World Vision has been intentional on strengthening the organizational mechanism and accountability toward promoting gender equality by establishing a Global Gender and Development Unit, launching the Gender Equality Policy, Gender Framework for Action (for the implementation of the policy), Channels of Hope for Gender, Community Change Project Model, Men-Engage methodology integrating gender into WV program design, and monitoring and evaluation and the promotion of women in leadership.”
An initiative of World Vision, Strong Women Strong World, exists to bring awareness to issues facing women and girls, to mobilize resources, implement programs, and cultivate a movement of women and men in the US who are committed to restoring dignity to women and girls in order to create a stronger world for all people. As the international community steps up its efforts and commitment to move towards achieving the gender equality goals that have been set forth, Strong Women Strong World is working together with governments, policy makers, community leaders and other NGOs to ensure that girls of today will grow into women who live in a just and equal society.
The world is in desperate need of women who have the chance to be strong, dignified and equal, and the time is now to make this a reality. In the words of UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, “change is coming, change has to come”.
Visit strongwomenstrongworld.org to learn more about the approach and focus of the initiative and how to get involved. For an in depth description of the initiative and its goals, read the SWSW Case Statement by clicking here.