By Yi Ren and Ana Lucia Ancheta, UNA-NCA Program Assistants
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meets each year at the UN for two weeks in March. This year the theme was Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work. Each year, government representatives meet to share their countries' progress towards gender equality, and thousands of NGO leaders from all over the world meet simultaneously to share programs, projects, and successes around the theme.
On March 28th, UNA-NCA invited several panelists who attended CSW this year or in previous years to share their highlights from the wide range of sessions held at and around the UN. Panelists included Dr. Marisa O. Ensor from Georgetown University; Natko Gereš, Program Officer of Promundo; Karen Mulhauser, immediate past Chair of United Nations Association of the USA; and Kristen Hecht, Program Director of B.A. Rudolph Foundation. The moderator was Kimberly Weichel, Consultant with UN Women, UNA-NCA Advisory Council Chair, and Chair of the Alliance for Peacebuilding’s Women and Peacebuilding Affinity Group.
Dr. Marisa Ensor introduced the history of CSW and pointed out that only the achievement of gender equality could lead to the economic empowerment of women. From an academic perspective, she considered the CSW more informational than inspirational and spoke highly of the job Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) and the World Bank did in terms of advocacy.
Karen Mulhauser said that the gender equality situation in DC is better than most other communities nationally, but it is not enforced by legislation. Citing the McKinsey Global Institute, she noted that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women's equality.
Natko Gereš, as a male participant in the CSW, emphasized the importance of raising men’s awareness of gender equality and helping them form the proper way to treat women. He introduced some of Promundo’s accomplishment in this field as well. Promundo has involved youth from over 22 countries to question harmful gender norms, and for men around the world to discuss the benefits of involved fatherhood and shared decision-making, and the broader costs of violence and exploitation.
Kristen Hecht illustrated the urgent problems facing women globally, such as the global wage gap, higher unemployment, violence against women, and unsound legal protection for pregnant women. Meanwhile, opportunities are parallel with challenges. There are programs aimed at getting 1 million girls into STEM, providing some of the highest paying positions that would benefit a great number of girls.
As an integral part of the global development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved without gender equality. The speakers and audience agreed that only when we work towards gender equality that the other goals will be achieved comprehensively. Gauging the progress of gender equity, through continued evaluations like CSW, will also be a sound mechanism to evaluate the status of global development.