Opening of Commission on Status of Women 61st Session

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SIX OFFICIAL 13-Mar-2017 03:07:33
Female empowerment would unleash potential to chart new global future, Secretary-General tells Commission on Status of Women.
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Inclusive Economies Powerful Way to Break Cycles of Poverty, UN-Women Chief Says
From classrooms and boardrooms to military ranks and peace talks, the world was better off when the doors of opportunity were opened to women and girls in all aspects of productive life, Secretary-General António Guterres said today as he opened the sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Organized under the priority theme “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”, the two-week session will feature a plenary debate alongside a ministerial segment, expert panels and interactive dialogues on the review theme on “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”.

In opening remarks, Mr. Guterres said his most important message today was one of gratitude to participants for raising their voices on behalf of women’s equality and dignity around the world. “We need you more than ever,” he said, stressing that globally, women were suffering new assaults around their safety, with extremists building their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls.

He went on to say that sexual violence, forced marriage, human trafficking and virtual enslavement were weapons of physical and psychological warfare in today’s world. Some Governments had enacted laws that curtailed women’s freedoms, while others had rolled back legal protections against domestic violence. “Attacks on women are attacks on all of us,” he said. “This is why we have to respond together.”

For the 830 women at risk of dying each day from childbirth-related causes, the 15 million girls forced to marry each year — and importantly, the nearly 1 billion women who would enter the global economy in the next decade — empowerment would unleash their potential to chart a new global future. The United Nations would support women every step of the way.

Announcing that he would join the International Gender Champions campaign, he advocated a cultural shift — in the world and the United Nations — that recognized women as equal and promoted them on that basis. In peacekeeping, he would ask Member States to move beyond current levels, where women comprised just 3 per cent of peacekeepers. “We stand for a powerful truth: women’s equality works for the world,” he said. “Hold us to our promises. Do not let us off the hook.”

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General for Gender Equality and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said the Commission was a barometer of progress being made towards a world free of gender inequality. “Inclusive economies and a positive world of work are powerful ways to break repeating cycles of poverty,” she said. Yet, with the global pay gap at 23 per cent, women were consistently earning less than men, she said, urging action to address that “daylight robbery”.

Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), Commission Chair, called on participants to build on gains that had been made, including the 2016 road map for the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The session must provide guidance on eliminating work-related structural barriers and ensuring that women took full advantage of new opportunities. Men and boys must engage as gender advocates for transforming social norms, he said, which required challenging “rigid” notions of masculinity.

Manuela Tomei, Director of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Conditions of Work and Equality Department, said that, in many ways, the quest for women’s economic empowerment would be lost or won depending on how well women gained entry into the labour market. A striking feature of today’s world was the lack of progress made on global women’s economic empowerment and gender equality.

On that point, Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said the Commission’s priority theme for 2017 would look at violence against women in the workplace. States and international organizations were still not using all tools available to address the realities of women and girls living in conditions of normalized violence at home or in the workplace.

Dalia Leinarte, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, provided a snapshot of ongoing efforts, saying women’s economic empowerment had been a focus in its dialogues with States parties, calling on them to eliminate sex-based discrimination, gender pay gaps and sexual harassment.

In the afternoon, four ministerial round tables were held on “Gender pay gaps in the public and private sectors”; “Technology changing the world of work”; “Informal and non-standard work” and “Full and productive employment and decent work for all”, with participants examining how to achieve equal pay for equal work, harness technology to accelerate women’s economic empowerment and develop policies that ensured women were at the centre of the 2030 Agenda.

Also today, the Commission adopted its provisional agenda and work programme (documents E/CN.6/2017/1 and Add.1/Rev.2). It also appointed Belgium to serve on the Working Group on Communications.

Also delivering opening remarks were Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, and Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly. Aminata Gambo, an activist from the Mbororo Pastoralists Community in Cameroon; Hannah Woodward, a youth delegate from Australia representing the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts; and Mary-Kate Costello, of the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality in the United States, delivered a joint statement.

The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 15 March, to continue its sixty-first session.
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UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
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