In a country that still see’s the prevalence of movements like: #MeToo, #NotMyStella’s #timesup #womensmarch and the awful, yet staggering rate of rape culture on university campuses flooding our social media feeds, it’s no wonder we find ourselves in the predicament we’re in. Women’s rights have come a long way, since (some) women first gained the right to vote nearly a century ago but it’s not quite come far enough. WHY not?
For most, being a man and attending CSW, the largest gathering “on gender equality and women’s rights, and the single largest forum for UN Member States, civil society organizations and other international actors,” can be overwhelming (UNWomen.org). And for some men (so I’ve been told) sitting at a table or engaging with strong, empowered women can be challenging. But why? Why can’t it be just that—a sign of strength and empowerment —it’s 2019. We’re 11 years out on the expected resolutions of 2030—where goal number five of the Sustainable Development Goals states—“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. Yet, how close are we really? Women still face the highest percentage of health and safety risk in the workplace, predominantly bare the responsibility of child care and make 88 cents to a man’s dollar (in Canada) and less in many other countries. According to UNwomen.org, if we keep at the current rate, affecting positive change for women’s rights will take a whopping 107 years to enact.
Let’s face it, we live in a male-dominated society – where the majority of high level CEO/decision making positions of power are held by men! It’s 2019! Yet, nearly half of the work force is women! According to the US Department of Labor, almost “47% of U.S workers are women” (blog.dol.gov.com, web). Meaning 74.6 million women work in todays U.S labour force, of which seventy percent are working mothers with children under the age of 18 and of that, 40 percent are the sole earners– as compared to 11 percent in 1960. And although the labour force participation rate has risen steadily from the 1950’s to the 1990’s – from “24% in 1953 to 76% in 1990,” in Canada, “women’s involvement in the labour force has risen at a slower pace since 1990”. Yet, in 2014, women made up “almost half (47%) of the entire Canadian workforce” (statcan.gc.ca, web). Yet, it still comes as a huge shock when a woman is the CEO or in a position of leadership. And no matter the organization—women and men alike tend to question how “she” got there. However, one would hardly find themselves questioning how a man (in the same position) got there. It’s time to challenge and change this frame of thinking! As former Icelandic minister, mayor and parliamentarian, Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir stated at a high-level panel on increasing women’s space for Beijing +25, “why is it always a question against women’s ethics? Why are men not held to the same ethical guideline as women”?
The fact is this. Gender inequality is very much a reality. Even today, “globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation” (peacecorps.gov, web). But it’s not simply the burden of women alone to take on this initiative. It’s the responsibility of humanity to engage on the topic of prevention of gender-based violence and the empowerment of women’s rights. It’s the responsibility as the leaders of today and for the generations of tomorrow, to be apart of the voices that ‘up-stand’ and support our communities (and as men) to help create the precedent, help create a foundational understanding of how women and all gender identities should be respected. It’s a man’s responsibility also to ultimately change the culture of how women within our societies are seen, valued and treated.
As Mexican MP Gabriela Cuevas Barron and the president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union shared at a CSW high level panel, the advancement of women’s rights becomes all of our responsibility
“…to push for cultural change, within the family, our communities and ultimately in our countries” (March 11, panel).
Without the engagement of all men and boys—our future looks bleak. And the reality of finding agreed conclusions for 2030 vanishes. It is imperative that as active civil society members, citizens, and voices for our civil rights and freedoms—we engage all men and boys in education on women’s rights and the equal treatment of women. This makes it the responsibility for all of human-kind to ensure that this happens at all levels and is accessible for all men and all boys. Inequality isn’t a problem for women and women alone – inequality is a problem that we all face—a problem that we must address as a ratified and unified human race. Nothing will change, if we don’t engage all men and boys on this topic of discussion, if we don’t seek to educate one another, share tools, listen, and ultimately support women and girls as they lead this movement.
CSW is like nothing I’ve ever been engaged in before. CSW is a community that fosters the beliefs of so many inspiring women. Women who have led peace coalitions, introduced ground breaking policy, are in positions of leadership and who have the power and continue to change the world we live in. A world that still seems so unjust for women, for those whose gender is non-binary, and for those who simply do not identify as male. CSW has changed my life and has given me the opportunity to meet, engage with and share a conviction and passion for women’s rights with ‘Femtors’ (female mentors) across the globe. ‘Femtors’ such as peace activist, Cora Weiss, President of the IPU, Gabriela Cuevas Barron and Minister of Women Equality and Gender for Canada, the honourable Minister Maryam Monsef. The CSW doesn’t just foster the belief of a more just world—it makes it a reality—and has made it a reality for me. But if you haven’t been to CSW or a women’s rights conference before – there’s lots of room to get involved, there’s still lots of room to help make positive strides for change in your friends group, your community and in your country.