14 March 2019
International Women’s Day, CSW 63 Address Services, Infrastructure, Social Protection
Photo by IISD/ENB
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International Women's Day 2019 on 8 March focused on the theme, ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change’.

CSW 63, which opened on 11 March, is discussing gender equality and the SDGs as part of its review theme on ‘women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development.

11 March 2019: On International Women’s Day, leaders encouraged innovative ways of reimagining and rebuilding the world, to make it work for everyone. Following IWD, the 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) opened with leaders calling for investments in public services, infrastructure and social protection to advance gender equality and women’s rights.

International Women’s Day 2019 focused on the theme, ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change,’ and addressed frameworks, systems and infrastructure that have been constructed for a male-defined culture. In a statement on 8 March 2019, UN Secretary-General António Guterres that observed women “still face major obstacles in accessing and exercising power,” noting it will take 170 years to close the economic gender gap if current trends continue. He stressed his personal priority to achieve gender parity among those who lead UN teams around the world. Guterres encouraged a shift towards viewing “women’s rights as our common objective, a route to change that benefits everyone.”

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called for enabling women to “take their place as innovators… to design and execute solutions that address the unique needs of women and girls.” Mlambo-Ngcuka showcased examples of how women’s thinking can bring transformative change to large-scale infrastructure, from using mobile technology to optimize supply chains for women, to urban planning that features better lighting and walkways in areas where attack or harassment are common.

The five UN Regional Commission heads, all of whom are women, also supported women’s essential roles in inclusive and sustainable development and efforts to enhance women’s roles as innovators. UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena observed that gender inequality “continues to be a structural trait” of the Latin America and Caribbean region. In an op-ed, she said discrimination and violence against women manifest themselves in homes, public spaces and places of work and study, impacting women’s possibilities for generating their own income, overcoming poverty and developing themselves professionally and personally. Bárcena stressed the urgency of “recognizing women’s rights and equality as central elements that must cut across all of the State’s actions” to strengthen democracy and attain inclusive and sustainable development. UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Executive Secretary Armida Salsiah highlighted the essential role of greater access to finance and information and communications technology (ICT) for women in order to develop businesses.

Following International Women’s Day, the CSW opened its 63rd session on 11 March 2019, in New York, US. In opening remarks, Guterres reiterated gender equality as “fundamentally a question of power” and emphasized gender parity as critical “in securing peace, advancing human rights and achieving the SDGs.” He called on CSW 63 participants to keep pushing for wholesale, rapid and meaningful change, “starting by addressing the imbalance in power relations.” Looking forward to the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the Secretary-General called on the CSW to keep leading the world to “a place where women and men enjoy equal rights, equal freedoms and equal power.”

UN Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) President Inga Rhonda King said investing in public services, infrastructure and social protection is critical to “free up women’s and girls’ time, support their mobility and women’s access to economic opportunities.” Mlambo-Ngcuka welcomed investments in infrastructure and access to public services that she said have contributed to more girls in school now than ever before. The UN Women head cautioned, however, that 71% of the world’s population does not have full access to universal social protections, and called for greater leadership on women’s issues, including in shaping the delivery of services and infrastructure that impact their lives. Civil society participants called for extending basic social protection rights to women and girls around the world, in line with their basic human rights.

CSW 63 takes place until 22 March 2019, with a focus on the priority theme of ‘social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.’ The event will feature discussions on gender equality and the SDGs as part of its review theme on ‘women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development, including on SDG 1 (end poverty), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities). During CSW, UN Women will launch a ‘Guidance Series on Integrating Gender into Infrastructure Development in Asia and the Pacific.’

Over 9,000 participants are expected to attend CSW 63. [UN News Story] [UN Women Press Release] [ESCAP Press Release on International Women’s Day] [UN Secretary-General Statement on International Women’s Day] [UN Women Head’s Statement on International Women’s Day] [ECLAC Executive Secretary Op-Ed] [UN Secretary-General Statement at CSW 63] [UN Women Head’s Statement at CSW 63] [UN Meeting Coverage of CSW 63] [CSW 63 Website]

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