March 20, 2015
By Katie Davey Dalsgaard, Brussels Liaison Officer, VSO.
In New York on Monday last week President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf from Liberia addressed a high profile gathering of women about the prospects of achieving gender equality saying, “We still have a long way to go……It is a time to recalibrate the global agenda.”
For almost 60 years, March has heralded the biggest annual gathering dedicated to gender equality: the Commission for the Status for Women (CSW). This year’s two week meeting is especially important, coming as it does in the middle of negotiations around what will be the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to improve the lives of women around the world in the next 15 years. It is also the 20th anniversary of the landmark Beijing conference on women’s rights which led to the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action- still today a blueprint for action on gender inequality.
Never has it been more pertinent than now that the EU champion gender equality and the rights of women and girls. The political declaration adopted on the first day of this year’s CSW was at best a stagnant reaffirmation of existing commitments, at worst a step backwards for achieving gender equality.
My colleagues at VSO and I were relieved to see that UN member states endorsed the inclusion of a sustainable development goal on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls as a priority for the post-2015 development agenda.
But, like many organisations and governments who are championing gender equality and women’s rights to be central to the next global development agenda , we think that this tough negotiation is a reminder of how much further the world has to go to really deliver the ambition of a world where all men and women, boys and girls are equal.
Both Development Commissioner Mimica and EU High Representative Mogherini have declared gender to be a priority for their term in office. On International Women’s Days (March 8th) Federica Mogherini met with UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in the opening of the 59th CSW. This speaks volumes but now is certainly not the time for the EU to take its eyes of the prize. Johnson-Sirleaf and Mogherini belong to a still too rare breed of women in power.
More women in power at this level of decision making would inevitably lead to better outcomes for women and girls and as a result for the whole of society. There is an imbalance in decision making at the UN – Johnson-Sirleaf is one of only 15 out of 193 female heads of state and government – in part explaining the struggle to agree on strong, transformative statements that unequivocally support gender equality and women’s rights.
Let’s change the balance of power so that in 15 years from now we are not still struggling to get governments to support the basic human rights of women and girls. There is still plenty for the EU to fight for in terms of gender equality and it needs to remain a top priority for the European Union.
Twitter: Follow it on #CSW59
Photo copyright @UN Women/J CarrierBlogactiv Team