After a year of restrictions, it seems fitting that the theme of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is one of expansion: “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”. The annual session of the CSW, the United Nations body with the express purpose of promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, brings together advocates and activists, policymakers and researchers to advance its cause.
UNFPA will promote advocacy around key themes of women’s and girls’ leadership and agency, bodily autonomy and decision-making and fighting gender-based violence. UNFPA will also advocate against sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as in favor of mental health and psychosocial support, leveraging Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem’s role in championing the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on the Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment in humanitarian settings.
In addition to giving the keynote at the pre-CSW “High-Level Inter-Ministerial Dialogue on Scaling up Action to End Son Preference and Gender Biased Sex Selection,” UNFPA Deputy Executive Director, Programme Diene Keita will speak at “Bodily Autonomy and SRHR for Generation Equality: What Kind of Leadership is Needed?” on 16 March. The event highlights how women’s and girls’ decision-making over their bodies, including on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), is a bedrock of gender equality that enables them to benefit from all opportunities, including participation in public life. “When a woman or a girl can say, ‘My body is my own’ and make her own choices about her body, she gains autonomy over her health. Her education, her income and her safety improve,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “Bodily autonomy is the foundation for gender equality, for more prosperous societies, and for a more durable peace. This benefits us all.” UNFPA Deputy Executive Director, Management Ib Petersen will give closing remarks.
Other events UNFPA is involved in include “SRHR Generation!” on ensuring universal access to SRHR, for which Ms. Keita will serve as a panelist on 18 March; "An inter-generational dialogue on child, early and forced marriage" on ending child marriage; and “Reclaiming Gender Justice: Countering National, Regional and Global Backlashes”.
A pandemic may have put the globe on pause, but as the CSW shows, the fight for gender equality never ceases.