UN gathering delivers blueprint for strengthening women’s role in public life

UN member states issued on Friday a pledge for women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life and the elimination of violence.

A two-week session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women ended on Friday, as its main outcome document recognizes the need to significantly accelerate the pace of progress to ensure women’s full participation and leadership at all levels of decision-making in executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and the public sector, said UN Women.

“This is the first session of the Commission on the Status of Women in 15 years to engage with the issue of women’s participation in public life,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “The women of the world have made it very clear that the past and the status quo have not met their need for gender equality.”

COVID-19 is deepening pre-existing inequalities that perpetuate multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, as well as racism, stigmatization and xenophobia, the outcome document said.

Yet, UN Women added, recent data show that women have been mostly absent from COVID-19 government task forces around the world as women make up only 24 percent of the 225 task force members examined across 137 countries.

UN Women said the outcome document makes recommendations for concrete measures which can enable women’s role in decision-making, like changing laws and policies that discriminate against women and hinder their equal participation in public life.

Young women are particularly underrepresented in public life and disproportionately excluded from consultations on issues that affect them, despite being involved in activities that call for broader change and address issues such as climate change and poverty, said UN Women.

According to it, women under 30 years of age make up less than 1 percent of parliamentarians globally.

The commission agreed on the need for measures that target them: from access to education, technology and skills development, to mentorship programs, increased financial support, and protection from violence, and recognized the benefits of early exposure to women leaders as role models, as well as of legislative and policy-making spaces.

Recognizing women’s important role as agents of change in responding to climate change, the agreement also stresses the need to reinforce women’s presence and leadership in all places where decisions on climate change mitigation and adaptation are taken, and to ensure that related policies, plans and programs account for the specific needs of women and girls.

The outcome stresses the importance of the full engagement of men and boys in this task, and of the availability of data that is disaggregated by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status, disability, geographic location, and any other characteristics relevant in national contexts.

During the general discussion, high-level speakers included a prime minister, three vice-presidents and 93 ministers, all expressing the commitment to advancing gender equality.