Annual UN women activists’ summit opens with focus on services, infrastructure

Many of the discussions are expected to focus on gender equality and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
NEW YORK, USA – MARCH 11 : Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres speaks during the 63rd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York, United States on March 11, 2019. Atilgan Ozdil / Anadolu Agency

Gender equality has taken centre stage at the 2019 annual UN Commission on the Status of Women where women activists at the summit agree that gender equality is fundamentally a question of power.

Addressing the 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in her speech, Sudanese Civil Society Representative, Mary Fatiya, in her speech asked for basic social protections to be extended to women and girls around the world, based on need, and in line with their inalienable human rights.

Ms. Fatiya, who described going long distances to a school where only two toilets were available for around 600 children, said her ideal world centered around a peaceful existence, access to healthcare and good infrastructure: “I’m not asking for a luxurious road. I just need it and it’s my right to have it.” 

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The annual meeting of the Commission dates back to 1947, and brings more than 9,000 representatives from civil society organizations to the UN for two weeks during each session. This year’s theme is “social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” Many of the marathon-discussions are expected to also focus on gender equality and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The topics that will be covered over the next two weeks, range from planning urban space and public transport, with women’s safety and mobility in mind, to improving rural women’s access to skilled birth attendants. 

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Highlighting some of the progress made in recent decades, the head of UN Women, South Africa’s Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said thanks to investment in infrastructure and access to public services, more girls are in school now than ever before.

She noted the need to close the gaps, however, saying that 71 per cent of the world’s population, still does not have full access to universal social protections. Mlambo-Ngcuka urged greater leadership on women’s issues, saying women and girls have a vital role to play in shaping the policies delivery of services and infrastructure that impacts their lives.


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