By: Abel Koka
Gender equality is more than a goal. It is more than having good policies proclaiming the rights and well-being of women and girls and the responsibilities of everyone to make it a reality. Gender equality is about taking deliberate actions to ensure all women and girls have access and can exercise their rights as men and boys. Gender Equality is about investment in programs supporting women and girls to reach their full potential and be the change they want to see in the community. Gender Equality is about creating a favourable environment for women to clinch into leadership roles and be the voices of everyone in the community. This is what the forthcoming 67th conference on the Commission and Status of Women (CSW67) should stand for.
The Commission on Status of Women (CSW) conference has been a ground-breaking platform since its inception in 1947, soon after the birth of the United Nations. The forum has brought to the fore some great solutions to advance the rights and well-being of women and girls, such as adopting the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995. The conference has played a critical role in reviewing the progress in achieving gender equality, the challenges holding us back and the opportunities to accelerate the realization of an equal and just community for all. Furthermore, the conference has been a place to formulate policies to give more agency to women and girls.
In 2023, representatives of Member States, UN entities, members of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Philanthropies, Private Sector, Indigenous women, and young people, among others, from all over the world will gather in New York from the 6th to 17th of March to deliberate on the two themes:
- Priority theme: Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls
- Review theme: Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls
While the above-mentioned themes are timely and vital to accelerate the achievement of gender equality, the CSW67 is taking place when the world is yet to recover from the lousy hit of Covid-19, which badly affected women and girls compared to anyone else in the community. Moreover, the CSW67 is taking place at a time when the world is witnessing a considerable number of girls dropping out of school, and the majority are denied access to education due to systemic barriers, poor social norms and customs, poverty and lack of political will to invest in equal and quality education. Furthermore, the CSW67 is happening amid the increased impact of climate change which pushes women and girls to a margin of poverty.
What is CSW67 going to offer to guarantee women and girls a better future? Are we still going to play by the rules of more talk, less action or moving policies into action? With more questions than answers, it is time we show women and girls that their rights matter and that women’s rights are human rights by action.
The starting point should be on financing gender equality programs as much as we fund other programs in the community. Both public and private sector investment will play a transformative role in unlocking the power of women and girls and unleashing their potential to be productive in the community. The investment could be through organizations supporting women’s empowerment or directed to women and girls’ programs in the community, such as digital literacy, innovation and technology programs and end-Gender Based Violence (GBV) interventions.
Keeping girls in school and ensuring a safe learning environment is no longer an option or a point of discussion. So much has been said, and the global crisis in education, especially for a girl child, is being witnessed worldwide. This poses a huge missed economic gap to communities, including governments. For instance, the report by the World Bank of 2018 uncovers that a lack of and low education attainment for girls can lead to a substantial loss in family income and national wealth. It is now or never. Women and girls in Afghanistan want to hear less talk. They want to see concrete actions from world leaders to secure their future. Girls in my community in Tanzania demand actions to address the underlying causes and impact of teenage pregnancy and child marriage. They are tired of daily promises to address period poverty and poor access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). The CSW67 can only be transformational by moving from words to action by heeding the voices of marginalized girls from all over the world.
Climate change affects women and girls now more than ever before. Women and girls than men and boys disproportionally feel its impact. The climate crisis is exacerbating the existing inequalities by disrupting the already limited economic opportunities and affecting women’s access to reproductive services. Due to a lack of power, women and girls find themselves at a crossroads. We need to listen to women and girls who are the primary victims of climate change. Their voices should be at the center of creating appropriate actions to tackle the causes and impact of climate change. The CSW67 should reaffirm the need to place women’s leadership at the core of climate action. Climate actions that are not gender inclusive will risk the chance to tackle the main problem.
Therefore, CSW67 presents an opportunity to carry the banner for gender equality and demand more actions from our leaders. Our leaders should walk their talk by making sure every woman in the community enjoys equal rights and opportunities as men. Investment should always be our Plan A because there is no Plan B or C. Without financial resources and clear political will, women and girls’ potential will continue to be wasted, and the world will not become a better place due to the severe impact of climate change. So let’s turn our policies into action. Let’s place our financial resources into advancing the rights and well-being of women and girls because Gender Equality Matters!