[Event Report] Uniting for Change: Women at the Forefront of Global Advocacy – CSW68 and NGO CSW68

The sixty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) takes place from 11 to 22 March 2024 with representation of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world. The priority theme is ‘Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective’. The review theme is about ‘social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

As delegates of HRN, we participated in a series of critical side events of the first week of CSW68 and NGO CSW68, each focusing on pivotal global challenges. The discussions underscored a powerful message: women are leaders, justice providers, victims, and pivotal actors in addressing complex issues such as peace and security, harassment and violence, land rights, financial access, climate change, justice systems, and technology. These events called for increased women participation and innovative solutions across various sectors, setting the stage for the anticipated Summit of the Future.

Secretary-General António Guterres during the town hall with NGOs asserted that “if we had gender parity at the decision-making levels around the world, at all levels, we would not have the number of wars we have today.”  Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations advocated for the inclusion of women at all levels of electoral and civic processes to open up civic spaces and enhance their representation and participation in peacekeeping and leadership roles in conflict situations. Diene Keita, UN Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director for UNFPA highlighted the ongoing struggle against online and offline harassment of women and the broader challenges in ensuring women’s freedom to make decisions.

Side events

The urgency for ratifying the ILO Convention 190 was palpable, highlighting a global call to action against workplace harassment. The discussions, enriched by inputs from Uganda and Mexico, stressed the importance of establishing legal safeguards to ensure a safe and respectful work environment for all.

The vital role of women in trade was highlighted, with initiatives from Indonesia to Africa showcasing government and international efforts to empower women in economic activities, emphasizing the need for equitable legal and resource support.

The crucial role of education and cultural empowerment in poverty eradication was discussed, highlighting the need for gender-responsive educational policies and the preservation of cultural heritage as means to empower women and foster economic independence.

The link between climate action and gender equity was explored, stressing the importance of community-based adaptation in Kenya and Uganda and gender-responsive finance to ensure inclusive and effective climate solutions.

The reform of customary and informal justice systems to enhance women’s rights and gender equity was the key focus, with efforts aimed at limiting patriarchal norms. Examples from the Solomon Islands to the Philippines demonstrated efforts to balance tradition with contemporary legal norms.

The essential role of women in peacebuilding and political participation was underscored, highlighting the barriers to their full engagement and the need for supportive legal and policy frameworks to protect and promote women’s active involvement.

In Southeast Asia, the significance of the family as a fundamental societal unit was stressed, with nations like Brunei advocating for equal partnership in domestic roles to enhance societal prosperity. Indonesia’s advancements in maternity leave policies signified a commitment to gender equality and a better work-life balance.

The Youth Forum emphasized the dynamic role of young people in advocating for development, education, and gender equality. Their involvement is crucial in crafting a future free from violence and poverty.

HRN recognizes the urgency of these issues and remains dedicated to continuing our efforts to harness these insights to create a more equitable and just world. We will bring you the latest news of the second half of the CSW68.