Global Women Wonder: Why Are We Still Asking for a Seat at the Table?

March 14, 2014

“We cannot achieve a world of dignity for all until we end gender inequality in all its forms,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon told the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

“We need to take big leaps, not baby steps, to achieve equality between women and men, sooner rather than later. We need bold action,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women.

“Your table was built on blood and bones and needs to be dismantled. … We’re still asking for a seat at the table instead of saying: Your table sucks!” said Mallika Dutt, founder and president of Breakthrough (@mallikadutt).

There’s a definite sense of urgency in the air at this year’s 58th session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. What has been accomplished? What hasn’t? What are we going to do about it?

The CSW comes just one year before the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, and critical discussions are taking place about our progress since that event. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action remains the most important global policy document on gender equality and the areas of women and poverty, violence against women, and human rights. We know that some progress has been made, but women still lack full participation in all aspects of society in our own backyard, as well as across the globe.

Only a few days into the CSW, from the NGO Consultation Day to the high-level sessions, we are already networking, disagreeing, agreeing, dancing, drafting statements, and sharing strategies, meals, and best practices. Girls and women of all ages are speaking out:

  • “Because a child cannot marry, a child cannot be a bride.”
  • “To speed up progress, speed up women’s equality.”
  • “We are not all born equal. To achieve that, there are different strokes for different folks.”
  • “Women vote for women in politics. It is men who don’t vote for women.”
  • “We must work toward smart, green cities … that empower women.”
  • “Discrimination against women funds violence.”

And this is just what I heard on the first day of the CSW.

For the next two weeks, AAUW joins participants from around the world who are gathering at the U.N. and other venues — adding our voices to the mix on the priority and review themes of the CSW. The priority theme focuses on the challenges and achievements in implementing the millennium development goals for women and girls. The review theme is about women’s and girls’ access to and participation in education, training, and science and technology, including promoting women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.

AAUW’s written statement to the 58th U.N. CSW focused on the review theme and was also highlighted in the March 11 event “Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” presented by AAUW Senior Researcher Andresse St. Rose, Linda Young of the Austin Community College District, and students from Brookdale Community College in New Jersey.

At the CSW, AAUW’s team of U.N. representatives led by Melissa Guardaro, national office staff, and members are engaging in discussions, promoting AAUW’s mission, and continuing efforts to expand opportunities to empower women and girls globally. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like AAUW play a critical role in advancing the agenda for women’s global development.

Why? Because we’re STILL asking for a seat at the table.

Want to follow the action? Here’s how.

By:   |   March 14, 2014

1 Comment

  1. Patricia Fae Ho says:

    I was proud and privileged to be part of the AAUW delegation to CSW58. Gloria Blackwell, Melissa Guardaro, Linda Hallman and our AAUW youth representatives have kept AAUW’s voice for equity prominent among the NGOs working within the Economic and Social Council of the UN. AAUW must continue to be in the forefront of global equality for women and girls.

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