UNITED NATIONS: The UN body exclusively dedicated to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment wrapped up its annual session at the weekend with agreement on ways to safeguard and improve women’s and girls’ access to social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure.
The 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which traditionally brings women’s rights advocates from across the world to United Nations Headquarters in New York for two weeks of intense dialogue, expert panels and partnership events, concluded with a strong commitment by UN member states to ensure that services, infrastructure and social protection systems are designed and delivered in ways to prevent discrimination and create a “level playing field” for women and girls.
The Executive Director of UN Women, which serves as the CSW Secretariat, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said: “This annual gathering has never been bigger nor more significant for the women and girls of the world.”
Pakistan’s one person delegation to the Commission was led by Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson of the National Commission of Women.
The annual meeting of the Commission, which dates back to 1947, brought to the UN more than 9,000 representatives from civil society organizations.
This year Pakistan organized a record four side-events dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women that, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said, were part of “our diplomatic activism.”
The Commission’s meeting opened on March 11 with statements from a wheelchair-bound Pakistani mother Muniba Mazari, who yearned to visit a park without worrying about ramp access, and a young South Sudanese woman Mary Fatiya, who dreamed of having affordable health care.
Those and other moving testimonies heard over the two-week session spotlighted some stark truths: universal access to an old-age pension, quality health-care services and safe and affordable public transport can enhance women’s income security and independence, shape whether a small entrepreneur will get her products to market on time, and at what cost; or whether an adolescent girl can get safely to her school and has access to a toilet.
This can determine whether girls go to school at all, what markets a woman farmer can access, and how much time she has left in a day to pursue other paid work or leisure.
The outcome of the session, known as the Agreed Conclusions, speaks directly to these concerns by setting out concrete measures to bolster the voice, agency and leadership of women and girls as beneficiaries and users of social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure.
Mlambo-Ngcuka said the Commission’s recommendations “pave the way for governments to engage and invest differently; involving women in policy dialogue, and targeting initiatives that go to the heart of the largest barriers to the empowerment and voice of women and girls.”
Social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure are integral to achieving the implementation of the landmark 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by world leaders in 2015.