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Spotlight on the 61st Commission on the Status of Women

The theme of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) was “economic empowerment of women in the changing world of work.” UI Staff were joined by 11 delegates from our member congregations. Over the course of the two-week Commission, UNANIMA co-sponsored two side-events as an organization, supported two events as a member of the NGO Committee on Migration, and supported three more as a member of the NGO Mining Working Group. UNANIMA’s Executive Director found that attending CSW61 offered her a fresh, global perspective on the gender-based obstacles women face to achieving financial independence or economic security. Here are a few of the powerful points she took away from her experience at the Commission:

As we know, the world of work has changed dramatically. Jobs are less likely to be life-long careers, technology has taken over in positive and challenging ways, and many people are creating their own businesses – but sadly the gender gap remains.

According to UN Women, 76.1% of working-age men are in the work force, but only 49.6% of working-age women are. 61.5% of women are engaged in the service sector and 25 percent in the agricultural sector, while just 13.5% work in industry. Globally, women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men for work of equal value. Only 63 countries comply with the International Labor Organization’s minimum maternity leave standards, which recommend that mothers be granted at least 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. Only 67 countries have laws against gender discrimination in hiring practices. In 18 countries, husbands can prevent their wives from working.

Women and girls typically spend more than double the time spent by men and boys on household responsibilities such as looking after siblings, older family members, caring for the sick, and managing the household.

Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, describes this phenomenon as “the unchanging world of unrewarded work, a globally familiar scene of withered futures, where girls and their mothers sustain the family with free labor, with lives whose trajectories are very different from the men of the household.”

It is clear that changes are needed in the world of work in order to eliminate the unjust inequalities in the futures of today’s male and female children. The former UN Secretary General’s report on this topic can be found here in all six UN languages.

An excellent collection of articles, photos, videos, and other tools emerging from CSW61 are available in English, Spanish, and French.