March 6, 2015
UNITED NATIONS — In observance of International Women’s Day, March 8th, UN Women hosted, what they referred to as, a thematic debate. Heads of state, UN officials and other governmental and non-governmental representatives took the opportunity to speak on the successes and continued struggles of global gender equality in respect to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which was adopted in 1995.
One of the greatest global successes was reported by Ban Ki-Moon who cited the reduction of maternal mortality which has been cut approximately in half over the past 20 years (although, according to Michaëlle Jean, Secretary-General of the international organization Francophonie, 800 hundred women a day still die as a result of complications from childbirth). Discussions regarding ongoing challenges included violence against women, employment inequality, and the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles.
The inequity of female representation in government was recognized by Mr. Ban who stated that five countries still have zero women in their parliament and eight have zero female cabinet members. In a forum where the word accountability was used consistently, Mr. Ban’s stated refusal to name the countries was paradoxical but not surprising (as of January 1st 2015 the Inter-Parliamentary Union reported the following five countries as having zero women parliamentarians: Micronesia, Palau, Qatar, Tonga, and Vanuatu)
During the opening session, nearly all of the panelists acknowledged that the member countries have made progress but that they are not on target to meet the lofty goals of the Beijing Declaration by 2030: eliminating all forms of violence against women, ensuring equal access to education, and ensuring equal access to economic opportunity, to name a few. According to the President of the Republic of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, assuming a constant rate of gender equality adoption, it will take 81 years to reach worldwide gender equity.
In support of increasing the rate at which women’s rights and equality issues are adopted across the globe, the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, asked for men to take action at all possible opportunities to fight for women’s rights: this included refusing pay raises when they know that female colleagues are not being paid equally, not engaging with video games that exploit women and include elements where gender violence is incorporated into the game, and to refuse to marry children.
The observation of International Women’s Day at the UN was one of many events leading up to the twentieth annual two week session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Beijing+20 (referring to the inaugural session of the commission, held in Beijing in 1995). There will also be a march held in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th at 2:30 p.m., Times Square, New York City.
Photo by: Luiz Rampelotto/EuropaNewswire