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As global mobilization intensifies on women's rights, UN's largest meeting on gender equality begins

As global mobilization intensifies on women's rights, UN's largest meeting on gender equality begins

Spotlight on rural women and girls during the Commission on the Status of Women, focus on critical issues such as ensuring adequate living standards, food and nutrition security, access to land, technology, education, health, and ending all forms of violence and harmful practices

New York - Against the backdrop of unprecedented global efforts for women's rights and gender equality, the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is set to begin next week at the UN Headquarters in New York. This is the UN's largest gathering on gender equality and women's rights, and the single largest forum for UN Member States, civil society organizations and other international actors to build consensus and commitment on policy actions on this issue. The forthcoming 62nd session of the Commission from 12 - 23 March will focus on the priority theme of "Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls".

In the last year, global movements for gender equality- from marches to powerful grassroots organizing, and viral social media campaigns, such as #MeToo and #TimesUp in the United States of America and their counterparts in other countries-have galvanized world attention and captured headlines. Efforts by rural women and their associations however have persisted away from the spotlight, despite efforts to mobilize, disrupt the status quo, and bring actionable change.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. "At the heart of leaving no one behind, is leaving no one out. One of the single most impactful contributions to achieving the 2030 Agenda would be to level inequalities for women and girls in rural areas. Significant progress for them is progress for the whole Agenda, and for the world."

Rural women and their organizations represent an enormous potential. Given their roles in food production, processing and distribution, for example, rural women are essential to ensuring global food security. As primary energy managers in households, they can lead the way in transitioning to sustainable energy. And evidence shows that their leadership in the management of natural resources can lead to better outcomes in terms of governance, preservation and regeneration of land and forests.

Yet, on almost every measure of development rural women fare worse than rural men or urban women, due to deep seated gender inequalities and discrimination. Gender and geographic inequalities mean rural women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty and have unequal access to land and natural resources, infrastructure and services, and decent work and social protection. They are also more vulnerable to the adverse impact of environmental and climate change.

  • Multiple barriers trap too many rural women in low-quality, poorly paid work. The pay gap between rural men and women doing the same work can be as high as 40 per cent.
  • Agricultural work remains a significant source of livelihood for rural women. Yet, less than 20 per cent of landholders worldwide are women, according to the FAO Gender and Land Rights Database.
  • In nearly two thirds of countries, women are more likely than men to report food insecurity according to the UN Women report "Turning Promises into Action". Not only are more women hungry, but more women in rural areas suffer poor nutrition that results in anemia, a leading cause of maternal death.
  • Infrastructure and technology typically reach rural women last, leaving them ever further behind. In 80 per cent of water-deprived households, women and girls are primarily responsible for daily water collection.

The 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) will deliberate on the key issues that significantly impact gender equality and the empowerment of all rural women and girls. These will range from how to ensure their adequate living standards with increased access to land and productive assets, decent work, infrastructure and technology, education and health, including their sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and ending all forms of violence and harmful practices. The forum will be an opportunity to provide concrete suggestions on how to empower rural women and girls, making the promise of "leaving no one behind" of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development a reality.

The review theme of this CSW62 is Women in the Media, bringing timely discussions on women's participation in and access to the media, as well as to information and communications technologies. Sexual harassment at the workplace and online, lack of representation, gender pay gap and many other current issues are expected to come up in the discussions and side events.

The extraordinary global mobilization for gender equality witnessed over the last year is clear as more than 8000 representatives from 1121 civil society organizations have registered to attend this year's CSW. Along with the 18 official meetings that include Ministerial Round Tables, high-level interactive events and expert panels, over 280 side events hosted by Member States and UN Agencies, and 440 parallel events hosted by civil society organizations are scheduled to take place.

Ahead of CSW62, UN Women together with partners, organized regional consultations with Ministers, gender equality authorities and civil society organizations in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia-Pacific, and Arab States to help build consensus and set priorities towards the Commission's outcome, which will be a set of action-oriented recommendations to accelerate the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all rural women and girls. 

UN Women

Prepared for publication by Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Media Partner UN Women