Progress towards gender equality, women's empowerment "uneven," says top UN official

13:08, March 02, 2010      

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Participants attend the opening of the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN headquarters in New York, the United States, March 1, 2010. The 54th CSW session opened here on Monday with the participation of over 2,000 representatives of women's groups. From March 1 to 12, the CSW will undertake a 15-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action, which was adopted at the end of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. (Xinhua/Liu Xin)

Progress across the globe for gender equality and women's empowerment remains "uneven," particularly in economic and social policies, a top UN official said here Monday as the United Nations opened up a two-week-long 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

This statement came as Sha Zukang, the UN under-secretary- general for economic and social affairs, was addressing UN officials and more than 2,000 representatives of women's groups at the opening of the session, which will examine progress since the historic women's conference in Beijing.

"The challenge, therefore, is not that there is no progress; the real challenge lies in the fact that progress is uneven across regions and within countries," Sha said.

"Such a re-orientation is crucial at a time when we continue to tackle the multiple crises of food insecurity, climate change and the fall-out of the global financial and economic crisis," he said. "Conditions for sustained growth remain fragile, and employment prospects remain bleak."

Sha highlighted several areas of the uneven progress, namely in the workforce where women are disproportionately represented in informal work and poorly paid.

"The persistent unequal sharing of unpaid work between women and men, including caregiving, adversely affects women's choices and opportunities in the labor market," Sha said.

He also cited the economic front where women continue to face discrimination in access to economic resources because of societal attitudes and stereotypes.


Vice President of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) Meng Xiaosi (L Front) attends the opening of the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN headquarters in New York, the United States, March 1, 2010. The 54th CSW session opened here on Monday with the participation of over 2,000 representatives of women's groups. From March 1 to 12, the CSW will undertake a 15-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action, which was adopted at the end of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. (Xinhua/Liu Xin)

Sha challenged the individuals who are in the decision-making positions "to do something concrete," affirming that 2010 is a " crucial year for concerted efforts to accelerate achievement of the goals of gender equality and empowerment of women."

With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that world leaders pledged to achieve by 2015, Sha warned that "there can not be progress towards achieving the MDGs without progress in gender equality."

He highlighted the increased importance to focus on the linkages between actions and processes to be implemented into a " concrete action agenda" on gender equality issues in the MDG Summit to take place in September.

Sha also cited the findings of the 2009 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development issued by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) where it showed that the structural constraints hindering women's economic empowerment have not been adequately addressed over the past decade.

"The interdependencies between economic and social policies, the formal and informal economy, and paid and unpaid work must be recognized and explicitly addressed," Sha said.

From March 1 to 12, the CSW will undertake a 15-year review of the Beijing Platform at the UN Headquarters in New York. The session will also include events observing International Women's Day on March 3 when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will urge action to ensure women's rights.

Source: Xinhua
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