This year the priority theme for CSW63 is:
“Social Protection Systems, Access to Public Services and Sustainable Infrastructure for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls”
As we go through the days and sessions of CSW I am understanding more and more the depth and breadth of the issue of Gender Equality.
If you look at the theme and wonder what gender equality has to do with sustainable infrastructure then you are not alone - I wondered the same thing at the beginning, and then I began to listen as the theme has been unpacked over these last few days.
Here is what I am learning:
Every government in the world engages with its people through services and infrastructure, but unfortunately in most countries women's perspectives and voices aren’t represented in all areas of government, council policy and planning.
A lady we met from Papua New Guinea told us that there is no women in their national parliament and only one woman at lower level provincial government. This lady and her countries SHERO's are trying to bring political change, however even if they can get a woman in the running for a position they have never made it past the first round of voting. There is much to be done.
A couple of examples that have helped me understand gender equality and infrastructure are around transport:
In New Zealand - If road safety is a priority and the way to do that is to reduce speed limits - research shows that the main opposition to that is male European men over the age of 50 who want to be allowed to drive fast, interestingly though, these are also the demographics that sit on the transport councils making the decisions (policy) and also the demographic that write the opinion pieces in the newspaper columns (influence). This is what the research is telling us. These demographics are the ones making decisions and informing policy about infrastructure that best suits their own needs. THEREFORE we need more diversity at the table informing the discussion and making the decisions. Women travel differently to men and have different needs for infrastructure therefore gender equality is very relevant in this area.
We hear from countries in the pacific about governments targeting free healthcare for women which is a great public service, but if the woman don’t have access to transportation or it is not safe to travel to get to the medical treatment, then it means nothing.
Gender Equality is important in infrastructure - to have a voice at the table and to enable integration with other targeted policies.
Social Protection is also a huge issue with record highs of gender based violence in a lot of countries. Our pacific sisters shared with us that it is increasing in their countries and it is difficult to take a man to court for gender based violence because you are not just facing the man (which is a big enough deal) but you take on his whole family and even the village, because the family structure is so strong in Pacific countries. This is a big barrier to progress for our pacific women.
In Africa - girls are 3x more likely to contract HIV than boys.
In South America we hear stories of gender based violence on trains and buses, so women are unable to access public transport safely, which restricts them and is unempowering.
These are a couple of examples from story after story we have heard here about the need for governments and countries to engage with the issues of social protection for women and girls.
Gender Equality is important in social protection - to protect women and girls, to empower them to live their lives without unjust restriction, and to have a voice at the table making decisions and policies.
There is ALOT going on in my brain as I attend the sessions, talk with women, and try to understand and make sense of what is going on around me here at the UN. If you want to ask a question or are interested in a particular topic then let me know through social media or email, and I will go to the sessions that address that, or talk to the people who are experts on the subject and see what I can do. We are stronger together and I am here at the UN but am committed to bringing you with me! Let’s journey together.
With love and courage,
xx Steph xx