U.N. Meeting Examines Progress, Challenges In Achieving Women’s Empowerment

Despite gains in women’s rights in the 15 years since the Beijing Declaration, U.N. Female Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro on Monday during the opening of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting acknowledged more action is needed to help countries advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, VOA News reports.

At the launch of the two-week gathering of world leaders and women’s advocates, “Migiro credited women’s organizations on the global, national and local level with international gains in several areas, including education and the development of national laws, policies and programs,” the news organization writes (Besheer, 3/1).

“More and more people now understand that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is not just a goal in itself, but a key to sustainable development, economic growth, and peace and security,” Migiro told delegates, according to U.N. News Centre. 

During this year’s CSW, the leaders in women’s rights will discuss the progress made since the “adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action … which remains the most comprehensive global policy framework to achieve the goals of gender equality, development and peace. The Platform called for action on 12 key issues: poverty, education and training, health, violence against women, armed conflict, economy, power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights, media, environment, and girls,” the U.N. News Centre writes. The meeting will also address challenges to achieving these goals (3/1).

Such challenges include the fact “[w]omen still outnumber men among the world’s poor, account for two-thirds of illiterate adults and are more likely to work at low paying jobs without social protection,” the Associated Press/Winnipeg Free Press reports. “Migiro said women continued to be plagued by sexual violence and the maternal mortality rate remains ‘unacceptably high,’ while political representation remains too low” (Lederer, 3/1).

Sha Zukang, the U.N. under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs, pointed to discrepancies in how some countries are tackling issues related to gender equality, Xinhua/CRIENGLISH reports. “The challenge, therefore, is not that there is no progress; the real challenge lies in the fact that progress is uneven across regions and within countries,” Sha said during the meeting on Monday. “Such a re-orientation is crucial at a time when we continue to tackle the multiple crises of food insecurity, climate change and the fall-out of the global financial and economic crisis” (3/2).

The VOA News article examines recent efforts by the U.N. to promote women’s rights, including the creation of a U.N. envoy post “to combat sexual violence against women in conflict” and the agreement by the U.N. General Assembly last September to create a new agency for women (3/1).

Agence France-Press/Asia One examines the “strong pressure to quickly establish a powerful super-agency to tackle women’s issues.” Several world leaders addressed the need for the agency during the opening day of CSW, according to AFP/Asia One.

“Now is an important moment … to seize the opportunity to take a great step forward by establishing our new U.N. women’s agency,” Harriet Harman, Britain’s minister for women and equality, said. The article examines the need for the agency and speculates on who might assume the leadership role of such an agency (3/2).

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