The United Nations recently held their annual women’s meeting, the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), during the week of March 13. This meeting, which spanned multiple days, is held once a year to discuss the progress of women and what remains to be done in the fight for equality. Throughout this year’s event, many women spoke of the inequality that they witness and experience as women every day. By creating an international forum to address the issues of gender inequality, the UN gives women voices in hopes of bringing about significant change.
At the meeting, statistics revealed that on a global average, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar that men make. This statistic reveals the enormous level of inequality that persists between men and women. In fact, it was revealed that there are still a multitude of laws in over 150 countries that openly discriminate against women. These laws affect more than three billion women worldwide, and can pervade every aspect of their lives.
At the CSW meeting, many speakers spoke out against such inequality, which they argued made half of the world’s population “second class citizens.” UN Deputy Secretary, General Amina Mohammed of Nigeria, the second highest ranking official of the UN, said, “Women rights and opportunities are consistently neglected and even under threat – in all regions.”
The meeting revealed, however, that there has been some progress in Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. These countries may actually be ahead of the West in some respects, with their female prime ministers and presidents serving as examples.
Chandrani Bandara Jayasingha, the Minister for Women and Child Affairs, revealed what she believes has made progress possible for her country, Sri Lanka. She discussed her country’s empowerment of women in all fields – social, economic, and political – through law reform and the formulation of new policies designed to serve the needs of women.
The meetings also included a panel on violence against women. This panel addressed the violence that women face in the workplace. Manuela Tomei, director of the International Labour Organisation’s Working Conditions and Equality Department, called violence against women a violation of human rights, and a threat to women’s security, health, and empowerment.
Optimistically, the meeting revealed that there has been a significant increase in the number of countries voting in a woman as head of state or government since the first meeting of the IPU-UN in 2005.
Though it was still clear at the end of the meeting that there is work yet to be done, the progress that the meetings have produced and enumerated thus far is hopeful. The public and international nature of this meeting makes the topic of gender equality visible and relevant, making the discussions held even more important. Visibility and outspokenness are important as we continue to move forward, and as more people are made aware of the implications of inequality, more people will be able to initiate change.
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