United Nations officials, civil society groups and worldwide media coverage hailed last month’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for taking a significant step forward in the campaign to end gender-based violence. The outcome document from the 57th CSW—supported by UN Women—included substantial agreements regarding the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment, including the need to guarantee women’s reproductive rights and access to health services.
While the impact of HIV/AIDS is highly publicized, what often receives less attention is the unequal effect this disease has on women. In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 30.7 million adults were living with HIV globally. Of those, approximately half were women. Yet that percentage remains far higher in certain regions.
Last October, the world was shocked and horrified when Taliban gunmen attacked a 15-year-old Pakistani girl whose only offense was demanding an education. After Malala Yousafzai was shot in the back of the head as she was making her way home from school, the world’s attention became focused on the harsh realities for girls in parts of Pakistan and elsewhere, where attending school is seen as a threat. While most girls around the world have less to overcome in gaining access to an education, major gender barriers persist.
During International Women’s Day, the United Nations focuses on fulfilling promises regarding the maternal health, equality, empowerment, education, and safety of women worldwide. There is perhaps no one better suited to help the UN sharpen this focus than U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.
One of the focuses of this year’s International Women’s Day, as well as the theme Commission on the Status of Women, is ending violence against women and girls, and with good reason. Last fall, the point-blank shooting of a Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, while she was carpooling home from school riveted the world, drawing attention to the plight of women and girls in Central Asia. But a few months later, we were reminded that gender-based violence is hardly relegated to one particular country.
This week, the 57th Commission on the Status of Women is meeting at UN Headquarters in New York. Since the commission’s founding in 1946, the security and empowerment of women around the world have been critical issues, both for the UN and civil society at large. Women represent over half of the world’s population, yet gender-based discrimination and violence, paired with a lack of basic resources like health and education, continue to keep women from reaching their full potential.
This International Women’s Day, taking stock of the progress and challenges facing women may be especially important in the area of international criminal justice. Women and young girls continue to be targeted at alarmingly high numbers because of their sex. Yet recently, hope has arisen with the unanimous election of the first female chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
With International Women’s Day approaching, campaigners for equality are viewing the European Central Bank (ECB) as a symbol of a wider continental problem: the whopping imbalance in the gender make-up of executive leadership across Europe, where women occupy roughly 13 percent of corporate board seats. Rights advocates contend that the lopsided presence of men in boardrooms defies European commitments under the 1979 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which calls for equal economic and employment opportunities.
When the UN General Assembly passed a resolution in December calling for a worldwide ban on the practice of female genital mutilation, many activists saw it as a watershed moment. Following decades of work at the local, national and international levels, a global consensus on this issue and the need to address it broadly is emerging.