Over the next few days, Entreculturas-Fe y Alegría Spain, representing the International Federation of Fe y Alegría, is participating in the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to defend the rights of women and girls. The CSW is the main global policy body devoted to gender equality and the empowerment of women. This Commission meets annually for 10 working days at United Nations Headquarters in New York with the goal of assessing progress on gender equality, identifying challenges, establishing global norms and formulating concrete policies to promote gender equality and empowerment of women worldwide.

The Commission is currently focusing on “social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructures to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women.” Below we share some of the main statements that are taking place during these first days:

Monday, March 11th

“I urge this Commission to seize this opportunity to make historic progress. It falls upon a generation to be great and make change, as Nelson Mandela said, and you are that generation.”  This is how Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, concluded her speech yesterday at the opening session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

During this session, the priorities for discussions of the coming days on the progress and pending challenges in the fulfillment of the rights of girls and women were established. The director of UN Women began her speech by mentioning that “131 million girls worldwide are out of school, and latest data show a 6 percent increase in the number of girls not in primary school.”

The Chair of the Commission, Geraldine Byrne Nason, reiterated that “What we’re trying to achieve is that men have their rights, and nothing more, and that women have their rights, and nothing less.” In his speech, Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, affirmed that “if women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely it is power we need to redefine rather than women.”

In addition, during the parallel events that are taking place, through GEM Report, we have had access to the latest document on the state of education for girls in situations of forced displacement, which can be downloaded here.

You can follow updates from the Commission through the hashtag #CSW63.

Tuesday, March 12th

Tuesday offered us the opportunity to learn about numerous initiatives that defend and promote the rights of girls, such as the efforts of the governments of Jordan, Ethiopia and Bangladesh to strengthen their social protection. In a coordinated effort with the United Kingdom, measures such as registration of girls at birth, school scholarships, generation of evidence on their situation and protection needs, as well as the adaptation of work environments to favor care of families are being prioritized.

We have also had the great opportunity to be part of the Meeting of the Secretary General of the United Nations with civil society organizations that defend the rights of girls and women in different countries around the world. After an emotional moment in which all the participants, led by the Executive Director of UN Women, sang “We shall overcome”, the conversation with the Secretary General began, which took note of the testimonies of the serious violations of rights that women and girls suffer on a daily basis.

The day included interesting sessions on the reality of early and forced marriages in Latin America, awareness campaigns among adolescents or legislation for women’s empowerment, culminating when we met Ifrah Ahmed, a refugee of Somali origin in Ireland and protagonist of a meeting on strategies against female genital mutilation. She has returned to her community of origin to train leaders like her to eliminate this abusive practice and be a model for others.

Written by Macarena Romero and María LaFuente, Fundación Entreculturas – Fe y Alegría Spain