Much more needed to achieve goals of gender equality, warns Deputy Secretary-General
Much work remains to be done before goals of gender equality – and their resulting positive impact on primary-school enrolment, maternal mortality rates and women’s economic independence – are reached, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General told the opening of the 51st session of the UN’s women’s commission today.
“Most egregiously, violence against women and girls remains pervasive – perpetrated by family members, strangers and agents of the State in all regions of the world, in the public and private spheres, in peacetime and during conflict,” warned Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, the highest-ranking woman in the Organization.
This year the Commission on the Status of Women is introducing new work methods, by focusing on one key theme, and she hailed the decision to concentrate on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against girls during this session, which will last from 2007 to 2009.
“Let me…encourage the Commission to take bold steps to improve the lives of girls everywhere,” said Ms. Migiro, herself a mother of two girls. Several girls have been invited to share their experiences with the Commission during its session at UN Headquarters.
In 2005, Member States found that, at the 10-year mark of the landmark 2005 Beijing Platform for Action, an extensive blueprint for promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls, the goal of fully protecting girls had not been realized. Girls remained at high risk of being sexually abused and sexually exploited and trafficked for commercial purposes.
The two international legal instruments most linked to the rights of girls, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), are inadequate to address the problem for two reasons, according to a report by the Secretary-General.
Firstly, neither codifies laws that consistently address the plight of girls, while the failure of States to incorporate provisions from the two treaties has also lead to the persistence of violence and discrimination.
“Ending this pandemic will require our individual and collective commitment,” Ms. Migiro said, listing several possible ways to solve the problem. “It will require us to create an environment where such violence is not tolerated; to work for the full implementation of existing legal norms and policies; to make focused efforts to prosecute and punish perpetrators; to dedicate sufficient resources; and to fully involve men and boys in changing stereotypical attitudes and behaviour.”
Last November, the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence recommended that the current UN agencies dealing with gender issues be merged into one unit. Ms. Migiro, who led her country’s delegation to the Commission in her previous capacity as Tanzania’s Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children, said that both she and the Secretary-General are much in favour of this, saying that “such an entity should mobilize forces of change at the global level, and inspire enhanced results at the country level.”
The Commission’s initial session, which spans two weeks, will conclude on 9 March. Close to 100 delegates, many of them holding Cabinet-level posts, from around the world are expected to attend, in addition to representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who will hold parallel panels and meetings during the session. Two high-level panels, one on policy initiatives and the other on capacity-building, on eliminating discrimination against girls were held this afternoon.