Report on the First Day of the Sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of women (CSW 60)

by Elizabeth Starcevic, past president, San Miguel PEN

I was fortunate to have registered on Friday, March 11, 2016. Today, in the rain and cold, there was a long line to register.

I got a ticket to go to the General Assembly meeting in the AM. It is a beautiful room, filled mostly with beautiful women from so many places. I chose that meeting to get a sense of the “official” line from the UN.

This is an overview of what I heard:
At the end of 2015 the UN adopted goals for 2030. There are 17 sustainable goals. Of which #5 contains the main references to women. I have not looked up the language yet but the points mentioned frequently were: elimination of violence, focus on unpaid work, access to reproductive rights, putting gender central in all development. Putting gender at the center of all of the development goals was repeated by all speakers.

The president of the General Assembly of CSW 60, Mr.Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, said that this new agenda was a “revolutionary” one that builds on Beijing. He recognized that there was still a lot of discrimination and that there must be a “change in the narrative” so that gender equality is a precondition for all change. Ban Ki-Moon, the outgoing Secretary General of the UN talked about his appointments of women in the UN, called on men to change their mentality and talked about groups that have stood up against violence, such as grandmothers and lesbians. He offered that FGM should mean “Finally Girls Matter”.

Things that were said in the session:

There must be adequate funding for change. This CSW 60 group must give guidance to needed government programs. The Addis Ababa agreements show that there is now a mandate to eliminate discrimination, so CSW must synchronize and give input on all future goals.

Women’s empowerment must be linked to sustainable development. Gender equality must be implemented within all sustainable development goals. This was repeated many times. Education on gender equality must start early in life and governments must collaborate with civil society to do so.

Several speakers mentioned that there has never been a woman UN Secretary General. (In PEN International we have finally done it!)

Shooting in Honduras was mentioned. Many talked about how population displacement due to war, and economic problems, and in fact all migrations impact most heavily on women and girls. Only one or two talked of addressing the root causes in the home countries.

Repeated frequently --- The 2030 agenda enhances, does not replace the Beijing agenda.

About Goal 5 We must end all violence and all discrimination against women. There must be more attention to unpaid work by women as well as their reproductive and sexual rights.
Data on the situation of women was emphasized. A global data base on violence against women is to be published soon. Many spoke about the need for good data to indicate progress and also to identify where things have either regressed or are not going forward.

Concern about those “left behind.” The use of that phrase reminded me of the very regressive school programs that George Bush called No Child Left Behind where just the opposite occurred. However, here the reference was to: rural populations, older women, LGBQ, indigenous groups, children and girls.

Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Dubravka Simonovic discussed how to improve the “synergy” (a frequently used word) between member states and civil society. She mentioned Guatemala and Europe. She discussed the establishment of a Femicide Watch and the need to collect data on gender related killings. She mentioned the possibility of a Global Code of Conduct re: treatment of women and girls.

As representatives of the various areas of the world spoke, such as the Group of 77 plus China, or the Caribbean, or various parts of Africa they mentioned: climate change, poverty, discrimination, women being excluded from decision making.

The European Union representative discussed sexual, reproductive, health rights, holding governments accountable, and commitment to equality nationally and internationally. She asked for better data collection on gender violence, as did many speakers.

The representative from the Dominican Republic discussed structural poverty, reforms in ownership of land and property, access to credit, health care, education and access to technology for women and girls to close large gaps. The representative of the Caribbean mentioned microfinancing. Many men have left for other countries to work has meant that there are many female heads of household and they need entrepreneurial skills. The region needs to reduce hunger, promoting “grow what you eat, eat what you grow.” In the Faroe Islands the inequality in income between men and women is causing a problem. Women make only 40% of men’s pay, so the women leave. There are few young women left to contribute to their society.

Many speakers expressed concerns about adolescent pregnancies, early and forced marriages, HIV-AIDS, and adolescent girls who do not/cannot finish school. Many countries have enacted laws against violence that are not implemented.

Gender equality is the basis for democracy. Data on women refugees and on trafficking of women is urgently needed.

Upcoming conferences: There will be a Women Deliver conference in Denmark in May 2016. There will be a conference on women’s rights in the Dominican Republic in 2016.'

Some representatives reported improvements in number of women in their parliaments. Nepal talked about implementing a “gender responsive budget.” All expressed enthusiasm for the way in which these goals would produce better situations for women.

In the afternoon, I went panel on sponsored by UN Trust Fund for Human Security. This panel discussed efforts to address poverty and marginalization, being caught in conflicts, struggles to survive natural disasters. Many speakers addressed frameworks for cooperation.

So far, I have not found panels and workshops that I think would be specially focused for PEN.
I met an indigenous woman from Oaxaca, and a very interesting African woman from London. I saw the East River from the 8th floor. I had to climb up 8 flights to do so as the elevators at the Church Center were too crowded.

I will keep looking for fascinating things to tell you all. Hope that these are of interest so far.

Elizabeth Starcevic March 14, 2016