This is the fourth part of a series of blogposts from our engagement with the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women (#CSW62) taking place at the UN headquarters in New York City. Read the first part here, second part here, and the third part here. This article was written by ARROW partner, Dr. Y.K. Sandhya of SAHAYOG.
I was looking forward to attending the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which is considered to be the UN’s largest gathering on gender equality and women’s rights and the largest forum for UN Member States, civil society organizations and other international actors to build consensus and commitment on policy actions. The priority theme, Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls, promised to be an exciting one, as it would focus on the struggles and issues of rural women and girls which is close to SAHAYOG’s heart. The opening session seemed to live up to the promise with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, describing himself as a “feminist” and the UN-Women Executive Director stating that “women are fighting to take steps that change their lives, and refusing to accept the practices that have normalized gender inequality, sexual misconduct, exclusion, and discrimination across all walks of life.”
However by the second session – the Ministerial Roundtables – I was feeling slightly worried. Representatives of the various member states were narrating all the wonderful things that they had initiated in rural areas to ensure the empowerment of women and girls living in rural areas ranging from the use of ICTs to steps they had put in place to improve their access to education, infrastructure and nutrition – all of which seems to negate the very need for us to get together to discuss issues that plagued the lives of vulnerable and marginalised women living in rural areas in our world.
Hence it was with low hopes that I stepped into the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) chamber on the second day of the CSW to attend the Town Hall Meeting with the Secretary-General (SG) and civil society. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the SG’s address wherein he mentioned that gender equality in the workplace could begin only if changes were affected at the very top. He went on to describe the measures he was taking to ensure that women at all levels in the UN were recruited in equal number to the men. The SG responded to questions put up to him by feminist activists in an impressive manner; responding to an activist’s questions of taking steps to ensure that competent women occupied top management and leadership positions, the SG mentioned that true equality would be attained, not only were competent women were in leadership positions but when incompetent women were also in positions of power as many incompetent men are today!
Dr. Y.K. Sandhya,