As Women’s History Month comes to an end, it’s a good time to consider what still needs to be done to promote women’s rights globally. Across the globe women are still confronted daily with inequality and discrimination. Some face cupfuls of acid, hurled stones, and brandished knives. Others are perpetually shrouded by the threats of rape, mutilation, and murder. Even in countries where gross human rights violations are not a daily occurrence, women are not free from discrimination and subordination. They face poverty, unequal rights in the workplace, and inequitable access to the basic human rights of health, food, shelter, and education. Now, more than ever, is the time to sidestep complacency and take action for women’s rights.
Women’s History Month was an opportune, and hopefully auspicious, time for the 54th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to be held. Member states and representatives from NGOs and notable UN entities convened in New York to discuss the future of the UN’s role in promoting women’s rights around the world. As of right now, the UN has four small agencies dedicated to women’s issues. However, individually, they lack the clout necessary to implement their obligations and challenge global gender inequality and discrimination. This past September, all 192 member states agreed to adopt a resolution consolidating these smaller agencies into one larger and stronger agency for women that can use its collective influence to enact change. During CSW, 180 countries cosponsored a resolution supporting the creation of the new agency and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called on governments to take action to create the agency without further delay.
The UN needs to make this a priority. Let Ban Ki-Moon know that in order to be effective, the new agency for women must have substantial and predictable resources from its onset. It requires accountability mechanisms at both the national and international levels. It also needs country presence, and strong policy and programmatic mandates. All of these elements are essential for this agency to meet its obligations to improve the lives of women worldwide. It is imperative that the President of the General Assembly ensures the agency’s swift establishment and operation in 2010. Show your support for a new, strong UN agency for women, in honor of Women’s History Month and sign the petition!
Despite the obvious hurdles still to be overcome, there has been progress made for women worldwide during the past century. Women have fought injustice and inequality to be awarded the right to vote, be elected to public office, file for divorce, gain access to healthcare, and attend institutes of higher education. Governments have taken steps to ensure the safety of women and girls by passing key legislation. Women have been threatened, jailed, and beaten for their advocacy and yet they remain undaunted and continue to push for change. Let’s keep the momentum going strong and make every month women’s month!
Lauren Bishop contributed to this post.