UN Observation of International Women’s Day 2021

Reported by ICJW NGO UN representatives: Fran Butensky, Joan Lurie Goldberg and Judy Mintz

About the event:

Aligned with the priority theme of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, this event celebrated “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World”, on the way to the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico City and Paris.  It was a day when the “curtain was lifted” on women recognizing their achievements without regard to divisions.  The two and a half hours of programing featured key UN leadership and women from Iceland, Argentina, Mexico, Finland, Uganda, Kenya, France, and Afghan whose expertise include climate, diversity, disabilities, equality, security and peace, refugees and youth.  There was a video message from Eva Longoria-actress, activist, producer and philanthropist. The musical performances featured the Pihcintu Chorus, Angelica Hale and the Broadway Singers.  The color of the day is yellow.

About CSW65:

This year’s priority theme is: Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

During the program many important thoughts and facts were shared.  Many are not new but worth hearing and repeating until there is change.  These are some of the highlights.

  • Women’s leadership is key to Covid 19 recovery all over the world.
  • Secretary General Guterres – Women’s organizations have made critical contributions to Covid 19 recovery but Covid 19 has led to set backs in Women’s rights; some call it a calamity.
  • Women are 70% of front line health care workers but men make decisions.
  • The pandemic has caused extra burdens for working women (the “second shift” or unpaid care work including helping with children’s at home schooling) or, put more simply, women have a disproportionate share of unpaid work.
  • Women are at a disadvantage with wages since much of their work is unpaid care and their jobs are more vulnerable than men’s.  Many women and girls live on $1.90 a day.
  • The virus has impacted every aspect of women’s lives…the pandemic didn’t “invent” gender inequality but served to further expose it.  
  • All education-but especially girls’- has been affected.
  • All gender violence and, in particular, domestic violence against women has increased during lockdowns.
  • Global response to Covid 19 needs equal participation by women at all levels; recovery will not be inclusive and successful unless women participate in decision-making.
  • In order to achieve a sustainable recovery, we must amplify women’s voices.
  • To support women leaders, we need to increase access to funds for women candidates.
  • Direct funding for women’s organizations is imperative.
  • We must work for sexual and reproductive rights for women.
  • Girls need “bodily autonomy” with a holistic approach and must be empowered and educated to make their own choices (including marriage).  This includes access to contraception and abortions.  Funding is needed.
  • Since Bejing, 25 years ago, women have made progress but NO country has achieved gender equality in its national government.
  • At the present rate of increase of female participation in government it will take 130 years to achieve gender equality.
  • There are just 14 gender-equal cabinets in the world.
  • Over 100 countries have never had a female leader.
  • Exclusion of women from decision-making which affects their lives is bad government.
  • In order to achieve a sustainable recovery, we must amplify women’s voices.
  • Even in 2021, there are barriers against women seeking STEM careers.
  • Effects of climate change are harder on women; e.g. finding clean water requires longer walks and possibly results in violence.
  • In climate justice efforts, women need more influence on decision-making.
  • To build trust, we need inter-generational groups working together.
  • We must build a society that works for both genders.
  • Gender-based violence can only be stopped if education on violence begins at a young age.
  • Cannot underestimate the importance of parents validating daughters’ hopes and dreams.
  • The Mexican Administrator of Foreign Affairs announced that Mexico will be hosting the Generation Equality Forum which is a global gathering for gender equality convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the government of France in partnership with civil society.  It will be held in Mexico on May 7th and 8th and in Paris on July 7th-10th.  He stated emphatically that we can’t create a better and just society without being on the side of gender equality.
  • With a goal of five years, Generation Action Coalitions have been formed that will deliver concrete and transformative changes for women and girls around the world.  They will focus on themes that are critical for achieving gender equality such as gender-based violence, economic justice and rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, feminist action for climate justice, and technology and innovation for gender equality.  Adolescent girls and young women will be at the heart of each Action Coalition.  They hope to see 50% of countries doing at least one of the action items by 2026.  The launch of this 2021 forum will finally galvanize women and girl leaders, youth representatives and everyone across the board so no one is left behind.  The groundbreaking forum brings together an international task force of girls and women of all generations, over 90 stakeholders in total, to lead the path through the pandemic to a world of gender equality.
  • Progress toward gender equality is under pressure, without action we risk regressing on the important gains made in the landmark adoption of the Beijing platform.
  • Technology and innovation have transformed our world.
  • The digital revolution represents one of the biggest opportunities for women and girls – but we must ensure that this change enhances gender equality and not harm it.
  • It is the hope that by 2026, women and girls in all their diversity have equal opportunity to lead and design technology and innovation and be part of a world where the number of women in technology has doubled.
  • Women and girls must be encouraged to study STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.) Negative stereotypes and cultural norms must be eliminated including changes made by men and boys. 
  • Women must come together and speak for themselves.  There’s a need for transformative leadership that is practical and visionary.  Women are 50% of the population and need 50% of the power.
  • There are and must be intersections between all stakeholders including the disabled and LGBTQ.

A personal footnote:  We wonder why a man is the Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).   We wished there was some kind of explanation as to this decision but during the session there was none.  With CSW’s goal of empowering women and amplifying their voices, we question the selection of His Excellency Mher Margaryan, the Permanent Representative of Armenia to the UN.