A key moment in the 21th century women’s rights movement is the 10th Anniversary of the UN Women’s establishment, as the global champion for the empowerment of women and girls. UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting the needs of women worldwide by supporting UN member states, as they set global standards for achieving gender equality.
My name is Joanna Manganara and I am making this contribution as President of the International Alliance of Women (IAW). My organization had a good experience with the work UN Women is doing in 2015, when we decided to hold an international meeting in Kuwait, hosted by our member organization in this country. They had decided to hold a regional Conference as well and invite women’s organizations from other countries of the region. We informed UN Women about this activity of ours and they introduced us to Mohammad Naciri, Regional Director of UN Women in the Arab States, with whom we collaborated for some time and who was very supportive of the process. Unfortunately, in April 2015 our member organization in Kuwait informed us that the situation in the region was getting worse, as the Gulf military alliance had started a military escalation phase. Under these circumstances, they said Kuwait was unsafe and risky and they proposed to us to cancel the meeting which we did. We hope that in the future we will be able to organize another meeting of IAW in the region.
UN Women has made outstanding contributions to open the doors of the UN for the feminist and women’s movement as official Secretariat of the Commission on the Status of Women as well as in its role as coordinator of the UN Interagency task force on gender equality. The IAW has noted its ever present support for the NGO Forum that convenes more than 8000 participants annually. The IAW has made statements during the CSW and counted on UN Women’s support to ensure that the NGO CSW/NY has an official role during CSW. As former chair of the NGO CSW/NY, Soon-Young Yoon, UN representative for the IAW, worked hand in hand with the civil society division to ensure that NGO voices were heard in the official proceedings.
While UN Women stands at the center of mobilizing governments and civil society, to keep the promises of the Beijing Platform for Action, 25 years later these promises remain unfulfilled. Currently, there is no country in the world that can claim to have achieved gender equality. Why is it so? Because the international environment is not conducive to the realization of human rights, in particular women’s human rights.
The world we are living is a world in turmoil. Years of austerity and market liberalization policies have had, as a result, the current backlash for women’s rights and gender equality. As a result, women continue to be discriminated against and their contributions undervalued. They experience multiple forms of violence at home, at work and in public space. Austerity policies have downloaded a lot of costs on women.
Moreover, new challenges not foreseen in 1995 that have curtailed human rights, in particular women’s human rights, have emerged and must be tackled. Challenges that range from climate change, to structural inequality, to the current refugee crisis, to the shrinking space for civil society.
The gender division of labor in the care economy has put women at the front and center of the global pandemic, very often in the most unprotected terms. Women and girls have been disproportionately affected in every sphere. Care work in the household is a huge constraint in other aspects of life.
As COVID-19 accelerates gender inequalities, it is more important than ever that UN Women and Women’s Organizations accelerate action for the realization of gender equality, which is not getting the attention it needs in our COVID-19 era.
Time has come to develop counter strategies from a feminist perspective. We need new concepts to bring into the heart of the understanding of the economy. Care economy is one such concept, reproductive economy is another one. We should consider both as integral parts of the economy.
We need a genuine transformation of the global order that cannot happen, unless we acknowledge and support the collective burden of reproductive labor and care work. Only by doing so we can have a post COVID-19 recovery and response that is robust. We should therefore all work for a feminist economic model, which is not solely based on economic growth, which reproduces gender inequalities, but one that prioritizes people over profits.
After examining the challenges in the international environment, we have to examine whether UN CSW delivers progress for women and girls and whether it is a positive force for women’s rights. The active participation of NGO’S is a critical element of the work of CSW. Yet the CSW does not institutionalize consultations with NGO’S before and during the session of CSW. The state centric process followed by CSW best represents state representatives of women and limits NGO’S to the Forum rather than giving them voice to deliberate as equals at official proceedings that is have a representation of civil society during negotiations.
We need to convince UN member states for the value of the input and constructive criticisms of civil society.
WHAT IS IAW
International Alliance of Women is one of the oldest feminist organizations in the world. It was founded in Berlin in 1904 and is now the umbrella for about 55 national organizations and about 350 individual members in most regions of the world. IAW has consultative status with ECOSOC since 1947, participatory status at the Council of Europe and is a member of the European Women’s Lobby.