Towards a just feminist economy – Womankind advocating for change at CSW

Roosje Saalbrink | Mar 13, 2019

Ethiopian women at a market
International Women’s Day has come and gone, once again too quickly. While having time to recognise and celebrate women all over the world is great, one day a year to celebrate women is much too short if you ask me. It seems the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) agreed.

This week the Womankind team are at the event advocating for a just, feminist economy for all women. As well as building partnerships with other activists and women’s rights organisations we’re hosting an event where we’ll be launching our briefing on the role of the economy to achieve women’s rights.

What is CSW?

Every year CSW holds two weeks of meetings in New York to review the progress on women’s human rights. Organisations including Womankind and our partner organisations gather to present key evidence and recommendations from around the world, shining a spotlight on emerging women’s rights issues and holding government officials to account.

The 63rd session of the meetings runs from 11-22 March and this year’s convening is the biggest yet with over 9000 representatives from women’s rights organisations, feminists, activists and government officials. This year’s theme is “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.” Now that is quite a mouthful. So what does that mean and why does it matter for women’s human rights?United Nations

In short, this year’s theme looks at public services provided by the State and the critical role the services play in advancing women’s human rights and addressing gender inequality.

Women often bear the brunt of social care, taking on a disproportionate amount of unpaid care and domestic work (more than 75 percent globally) compared to men. Women also have a lack of income and assets compared to men, owning just 20% of land globally. Social protection systems are policies put in place ensuring income security through things such as parental leave, unemployment benefits and pensions. In order for these to be gender-transformative, they need to account for these gender differences in paid and unpaid work and redress the balance.

Public services and infrastructure also have a role to play in helping to alleviate the burden of unpaid care work, which is predominantly placed on women and girls. Addressing issues such as water, sanitation, health and education services through a gender-specific lens will be the priority for this year’s meeting. The meeting concludes with the agreement on an outcome document, in which State representatives set out what they think the theme means for women’s rights in 2019.

Making the economy work for women

All women should be able to exercise choice and control over economic opportunities, outcomes and resources, and shape economic decision making at all levels. However, the current global economy does not work for women and undermines the achievement of women’s human rights. 35. Pancha Laxmi Lama, aged 44, is a member of the Saathi savings group and successful businesswoman – with her own shop and bead making business in Nahar Tole,

At our event ‘Making the economy work for women: rights and realities’ we take a feminist lens to the economy’s structural barriers, examining the duty of world governments to realise economic rights for women through decent work, tax justice and corporate accountability.

Meena Paudel from Nepal Disability Women Association (NWDA), one of Womankind’s partners, will also share NDWA’s work on breaking barriers for women with disabilities in accessing public services in Nepal.

The event organised  in partnership with African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Association for Women’s Rights In Development (AWID), Public Services International (PSI) and International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) will take place on Wednesday 13th March at 6.15pm at UN Church Centre – tenth floor.

Towards a just, feminist economy

To coincide with our event at CSW, we are launching a new briefing on the issues preventing women’s economic empowerment. The briefing, titled ‘Towards a just feminist economy: The role of decent work, public services, progressive taxation and corporate accountability in achieving women’s rights’  outlines key areas that need to be addressed in order to improve women’s rights. These key areas include barriers in the world of work, the role of public services, fair and responsible taxation and corporate accountability. The briefing makes recommendations on how to shape the global economy to work for all women and how the State can redistribute and reduce unpaid care work, the burden of which disproportionately falls to women.

We hope to see transformative recommendations from CSW. Among other things we would like to see the creation of a UN global tax body and binding treaty on business and human rights proposed as a solution towards more accountability. This would allow States to set policies for a fairer economy and to achieve women’s rights. To address the barriers to building progressive, feminist societies and economies, we need:

  • States to uphold their human rights obligation.
  • Robust international frameworks to hold transnational corporations to account.
  • Local action strengthened by global solidarity.

The 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, an agenda for women’s empowerment, celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2020. This is a key moment for States and the global community to address the barriers that prevent the economy working for all women.  It is key the discussions about women’s rights is taken out of the corridors of the UN and CSW into economic decision-making spaces.

At Womankind we hope these views will be taken aboard by the parties at CSW and outside it. As part of the global women’s movement, Womankind and partners will keep working, advocating and campaigning for a just feminist economy that achieves women’s human rights for all.

Download the briefing.

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