By Emily Becker
The UN’s 58th Commission on the Status of Women ended last Saturday in New York City. This year’s agreement pushed for a stand alone goal specifically related to gender equality and women’s empowerment in the set of international development benchmarks that will be introduced in 2015 after the current Millennium Development Goals expire.
The commission, held annually since 1946, is a meeting of representatives of all 45-member states to discuss gender and equality issues, progress and goals for the upcoming year. Participation is also not limited to states and usually includes representatives from interested NGOs.
This year’s agreement also called for an upholding of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights; an elimination of all harmful practices, including child marriage and female genital mutilation; a protection of a woman’s right to access abortion services; and the development of sex education programs for youth.
It was reported that representatives from African nations pushed for a sovereignty clause in the document that would allow governments to ignore recommendations that are in conflict with local customs and traditions.
A separate discussion was held during the commission on how to tackle traditional beliefs that undermine gender development, which are usually immeasurable and complex. It was suggested that the post-2015 goals contain measurable results related to women and girls sexual and reproductive rights, violence, decision-making, participation in public life, the equal distribution of unpaid care work and equality between girls and boys.
“We know that equality for women means progress for all,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women. “Through the development of a comprehensive roadmap for the future, we have the opportunity to realize this premise and promise.”