The first ESCWA Award on Advancing Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was presented by Ms. Rima Khalaf, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to three staff members. The award is delivered for the first time and constitutes a milestone for ESCWA, which is integrating gender perspectives in its plans, policies and programmes.
At a ceremony held on Friday 12 December 2014 at the United Nations House in Beirut, Ms. Khalaf handed out gold, silver and bronze awards to Ms. Nouhad Hayek of the Conference Services Section, Ms. Neda Jaafar of the Statistics Division and Mr. Raydan Al-Saqqaf of the Social Development Division respectively, in recognition of their exceptional contributions to advancing gender equality and for playing an instrumental role in shaping the recent gender equality approach adopted by ESCWA.
Ms. Khalaf said that ESCWA must lead by example when working to shape regional policy in this priority area. She highlighted the pioneering role ESCWA is playing in piloting and implementing the strategic road map on gender equality and the empowerment of women, known as UN-SWAP (United Nations System-Wide Action Plan).
As ESCWA Senior UN-SWAP Coordinator, Ms. Mehrinaz El-Awady explained that the aim was to enable staff to better balance their work-life needs. She noted that this award was among several progressive steps recently taken, including the implementation of flexible working arrangements, mandatory gender training and systems to close the gender parity gap at ESCWA.
The fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York, tentatively scheduled for 9-20 March 2015. Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world attend the session.
The Commission will undertake a review of progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 20 years after its adoption at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The review (Beijing+20) will also include the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly, the first five-year assessment conducted after the adoption of the Platform for Action, which highlighted further actions and initiatives.
The session will also address current challenges that affect the implementation of the Platform for Action, as well as opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the post-2015 development agenda.
The regional commissions of the United Nations, in collaboration with UN Women, have conducted regional reviews to identify remaining gaps and priority areas for action to accelerate the implementation of the Platform for Action in their respective regions.
Links to the relevant web pages of the Regional Commissions:
(Op-Ed by Ms. Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and current Coordinator of the Regional Commissions)
As we come to the end of the year, we, the women of Latin America and the Caribbean can be satisfied and hopeful, thanks to the commitments made by our countries in the area of gender equality.
In two important meetings organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, governments signed the Montevideo Consensus and the Santo Domingo Consensus; both contain specific agreements aimed at endowing women with more physical, economic and political autonomy.
For decades the women of our region have used social movements and institutional mechanisms to campaign for effective state action to end discrimination in society. The fact that equality is now guiding government agendas is a triumph in which they can legitimately claim to have played an important part.
The Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which took place in October in the Dominican Republic, mainly addressed the space that women occupy in the digital economy — a current focus of the work being carried out by ECLAC.
We believe that Latin America and the Caribbean should undertake a process of structural change, seeking to diversify its production patterns, by applying a combination of industrial, economic, social, environmental and labor policies. From our perspective, this will enable the region to grow steadily with environmental responsibility and greater equality. The structural change we are proposing relies heavily on generating knowledge and incorporating innovations into the production system and society as a whole. Information and communications technologies (ICTs) play a crucial role in this process.
We add a gender perspective to this debate, because the opportunities generated by the new digital economy are not always distributed equitably among countries or people. We are seeing first- and second-generation gaps, not only in terms of access to computers and the Internet, but also in relation to the skills and use of such technology.
Data show that while women do benefit from the advances of the digital society, they lag behind men.
The average Internet usage rate in 10 countries is far lower among women than among men.
A public policy sensitive to this reality should recognize that gender equality in the digital economy is mainly seen in the workplace (paid and unpaid).
It is therefore urgent to implement policies that prevent labor segregation, avoid income gaps and promote a fair division of labor by gender.
The slow rate at which labor-market gaps are being closed, highlights the persistent obstacles to access faced, not least of which is the fact that women remain those mainly responsible for unpaid and care work in the home.
Also consider, in our region a woman with 13 or more years of education still earns 37 percent less than a man with the same level of qualifications.
For ECLAC, equality is synonymous with entitlement to rights, and the state has a unique role to play in achieving minimum thresholds of well-being without using up resources or reducing the momentum of economic buoyancy.
The positive advances registered by the consensuses reached at these regional conferences point to a systematic defense of the integral and indivisible nature of rights, enhancement of the state (possibly going against prevailing viewpoints from the recent past) and the quest for a new equation in the relationship between the state, society, market and the family.
The idea is to the change the balance of power so that Latin American and Caribbean women can enjoy their rights effectively.
The situation of Latin American and Caribbean women is once more at the heart of regional debate thanks to the meeting organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to review fulfilment of national gender equality commitments.
The 12th session of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean will be held from 15 to 18 October 2013 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to bring together authorities, experts, international officials and representatives from civil society and the business sector.
Organized by ECLAC and the Government of the Dominican Republic, the Conference will provide countries with an opportunity to identify the needs of the region’s women and come up with public policy options in various spheres.
The intergovernmental meeting will focus on gender equality, women’s empowerment and information and communications technologies
(ICTs). In this context, the Executive Secretary of ECLAC, Alicia Bárcena, will present the position paper Women in the digital economy. Overcoming the threshold of inequality, which was prepared by the Gender Affairs Division in collaboration with the Commission’s Division of Production, Productivity and Management.
The event will involve roundtable discussions, panels and side events on issues such as productive development and equality, ICT access policies, women in business and science, gender and ICT statistics, policies for rural women and the empowerment of indigenous women.
One example is the roundtable discussion on Beijing+20: prospects and challenges, which will be moderated by Sonia Montaño, Director of the Gender Affairs Division, and will involve government officials, academics and representatives from non-governmental organizations.
Every three years, ECLAC invites Member States to identify women’s needs, present recommendations, evaluate activities carried out to comply with relevant regional and international agreements or plans and provide a forum for debate.
Previous Regional Conferences were held in Brazil (2010), Ecuador (2007), Mexico (2004), Peru (2000), Chile (1997), Argentina (1994), Netherlands Antilles (1991), Guatemala (1988), Mexico (1983), Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (1979) and Cuba (1977).
Delegates are expected to sign the Santo Domingo Consensus in the Dominican Republic, which will contain the regional and subregional needs of women as identified during the Conference, as well as commitments undertaken by countries to continue making progress towards gender
On 8 March 2013, ESCWA commemorated International Womenâ€™s Day in its Beirut headquarters, in the presence of UN officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations working on womenâ€™s rights, and a host of activists, media and academia. The Commission held a panel discussion to speak up against violence against women, consisting of ESCWA Deputy Executive Secretary Nadim Khoury, Senior ESCWA Economist Abdallah Al Dardari, Former Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Wafa Al Diqa Hamzeh, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the International Centre for Transitional Justice Anne Massagee, and Director of KAFA Enough Violence and Exploitation Zoya Rouhana. Director of the ESCWA Centre for Women (ECW) Samira Atallah delivered the introductory statement of the meeting.
For her part, Atallah expressed her desolation that despite repeated cases of violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, early and forced marriage, honor killings, female genital mutilation, trafficking in persons, and discrimination in economic rights, this issue cannot be defined with precision in the region. The reasons behind this is the absence of comprehensive statistical studies, fear of social stigma, lack of trust in the legal protection system, and the lack of knowledge and awareness of available services. She said that the courage to face up to these violations against women takes source in the courage of women and girls, and in many cases of men who take a supporting stands and initiatives. The ECW Director underlined that the responsibility of eliminating violence against women is not that of the state alone, but it also lies within every member of the society, and every organization, whether governmental, semi-governmental, or non-governmental.
In her intervention, Rouhana laid out the principle of â€œdue diligenceâ€ and the commitment of states in eliminating violence against women in times of peace. Al Dika Hamze highlighted the role of national machineries in empowering women in preventing and eliminating these violations, especially in rural areas and among the most marginalized groups.
In assertion of the important economic aspect of violence against women and girls, Dardari shed light on the economic repercussions of this case, especially since this issue is not taking its due right in full attention in the region.
Finally, Massagee dealt with issues related to protecting women during and in post-conflicts periods. Following these interventions, Fateh Azzam, Human Rights Expert and Former Regional Representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Middle East, moderated a panel discussions with the participants in terms of international human rights law.