Thousands of women from across the world gathered at United Nations Headquarters over the past two weeks for the annual Commission on the Status of Women.
The Commission, now in its 54th session, attracted participants from many developed and developing countries to discuss recent progress in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the occasion was especially important as 2010 marked 15 years since governments adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, agreeing to actively promote women’s rights.
Mr. Ban said there had been “many examples of progress” since Beijing.
“A growing number of countries [now] have policies and legislation that support gender equality and reproductive health… Most girls now receive an education, particularly at primary level. Women are now more likely to run businesses and be given loans… and are also more likely to participate in government.”
However, he said that there were still many significant challenges for women worldwide.
“Injustice and discrimination against women persists everywhere. In its worst form it manifests as violence. Up to 70 per cent of women experience violence in their lifetime.”
The event allowed Member States, along with representatives of non-governmental organizations and many UN entities, to share experiences, good practices and lessons learned in the implementation of the 1995 Platform for Action.
High-level roundtable and interactive events focused on such themes such as women and the economy, violence against women, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and the role of national mechanisms in promoting gender equality.
During a parallel event on the final day of the session, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed that “women’s progress” was “human progress”.
“The status of the world’s women is not only a matter of morality and justice. It is also a political, economic, and social imperative. Put simply, the world cannot make lasting progress if women and girls in the 21st century are denied their rights and left behind,” Mrs Clinton said.
The Commission adopted a Declaration where Governments reaffirmed the 1995 Platform for Action and pledged to undertake further actions towards its full implementation.
The Commission adopted new resolutions on issues such as maternal mortality, women’s economic empowerment, and the composite gender equality entity. It also adopted resolutions on issues that are regularly on its agenda, such as female genital mutilation, HIV and AIDS, women taken hostage, and the situation of Palestinian women.
In his closing remarks, the Commission’s Chair Garen Nazarian noted that while the session had ended, the work was not over.
“There is still much to be done at international, regional and national levels to ensure the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women. As we heard throughout this session, we must move from commitment to implementation – the time for action is now,” Mr Nazarian said.
Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women Rachel Mayanja urged Member States, UN entities and civil society to carry the commitments from the Commission into their respective decision-making fora.