As governments meet this week at the United Nations to evaluate global progress on achieving gender equality, many women’s rights advocates have faced barriers to accessing crucial meetings, gaining information about government actions, and providing input to the review process.
At this year’s 54th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), attendees have experienced waits of up to seven hours to gain access to the United Nations, only to face overcrowded and inaccessible sessions marred by poor or nonexistent translation services.
This year marks the 15-year anniversary of the milestone Beijing Platform for Action. Adopted by 180 governments, the Platform for Action reaffirmed and extended global agreements on sexual and reproductive rights and health for women and young people, including the right to comprehensive sexuality education and access to health services. Yet with governments poised to discuss how far the countries have come in implementing the Beijing agreement, many advocates claim that government negotiations around implementation are taking place behind closed doors.
Further, advocates were denied input into the review process, since this year’s Declaration had been agreed upon ahead of time, and adopted without consultation to civil society. “This year, there is very little space for governments to engage with civil society,” said Ama van Dantzig, a youth advocate from the Netherlands.
Dr. Mabel Bianco, Specialist and Board Member of the Latin American and the Caribbean Women’s Health Network, notes that while there are more women in attendance at the CSW meetings each year, their voices seem to be absent from the meeting. “These processes need to be transparent. It’s very important for advocates and delegates to see directly what their governments are doing,” said Bianco.
“Women around the world are experiencing great hardship from preventable causes, yet there’s no sense of urgency about these issues, or inclusion of our voices in the implementation discussions,” said Imane Khachani, a doctor and member of the Youth Coalition. “At the 15-year anniversary of Beijing, it’s a missed opportunity to discuss key actions for moving forward.”
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