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United States : Amid Slow Progress, Leaders Must Be Held Accountable for Promises to Expedite Equal Rights, Gender Equality Chief Says as Womens Commission Opens Session.

Without timely help from local police officers, Purity Soinato Oiyie, a 22?year-old Maasai woman from Kenya, would have been genitally circumcised as a child then married off to a 70-year-old man, the Commission on the Status of Women heard at the opening of its sixty-second session.

Instead, she had become the first woman in her community to finish university and now she dreamed of pursuing a graduate degree, Ms. Soinato Oiyie told the Commission, whose session, to be held from 12 to 23 March, would focus on the priority theme of achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. Wearing a Maasai necklace beaded with the words Stop FGM female genital mutilation , she delivered a joint statement on behalf of civil society, with Tarcila Rivera Zea, a Quechuan activist in Peru and leader in the indigenous womens movement. Ms. Rivera Zea said that, while previous generations had aimed at female literacy, new dreams, such as those of Ms. Soinato Oiyie, were now building ever brighter futures.

Such dreams must be realized, said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women). It has never been so urgent to hold leaders accountable for their promises for accelerating progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development objectives, she said, stressing that progress was slowing and even reversing. Still, around the world, an unprecedented hunger for change in womens lives was growing alongside a recognition that, when women banded together, they can make demands that bite.

United Nations Secretary-General Antnio Guterres said progress for women and girls meant changing the unequal power dynamics that underpinned discrimination and violence. All men should support womens rights, which is why I consider myself a proud feminist, he continued. Since his appointment as Secretary-General, gender parity in the United Nations Senior Management Group had been met for the first time, a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment had been established and an initiative was addressing sexual exploitation and abuse by those serving the United Nations. But, change must go beyond strategies and statistics.

Echoing those words, General Assembly President Miroslav Laj?k (Slovakia) said neither peace nor development could take hold without womens leadership and participation. Cornelia Richter, Vice-President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), underscored that all the 2030 Agendas Sustainable Development Goals hinged on the realization of Goal 5 on gender equality, adding that empowering rural women and girls was both possible and essential.

Elaborating on related objectives, Economic and Social Council President Marie Chatardov (Czech Republic), said gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls spanned all the Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, the Commissions focus on rural aspects was both timely and well-aligned with the 2030 Agenda and the Councils work. As the Commission had long provided a road map for the United Nations in empowering women and promoting gender equality, its work should continue to guide and inspire Member States and stakeholders across the world.

Newly elected Commission Chair Geraldine Byrne Nason (Ireland) said the current session was a key moment on the path to ending discrimination against women and girls once and for all. Indeed, time is up on women taking second place around the world, she said, challenging the Commission to do more and do better.

Also during the opening segment, Dubravka imonovi?, Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, cited significant recent achievements, including the 2017 adoption by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights of new guidelines combating sexual violence. She also described a major global change of attitudes and a shift from tolerance and normalization to open rejection of perpetrators of violence against women. Dalia Leinart, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, introduced its report on its sixty-seventh and sixty-eighth sessions, highlighting a special focus on education, land ownership and access to health and reproductive care.

At the outset of the meeting, the Commission elected Shah Asif Rahman (Bangladesh) and Rena Tasuja (Estonia) as Vice-Chairs and designated Koki Muli Grignon (Kenya) as Rapporteur. The Commission also appointed the representatives of Nigeria, Qatar and the Russian Federation to serve on the Working Group on Communications for the session.

In the afternoon, the Commission held four ministerial round tables, titled good practices in the empowerment of rural women and girls, the first two focusing on education, infrastructure and technology, food security and nutrition, and the second two centred on access to justice, social services and health care, and the prevention of gender-based violence.

The sessions priority theme would steer high-level interactive dialogues and guide negotiations on draft proposals expected to be adopted at the closing meeting on Friday, 23 March.

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Publication:Mena Report
Date:Mar 13, 2018
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