Specialized agencies, intergovernmental, non-governmental groups submit proposals for improving women's welfare, as Women's Commission concludes general discussion
Commission on the Status of Women
11th & 12th Meetings (AM & PM)
As the Commission on the Status of Women concluded its general discussion today, United Nations specialized agencies as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations put forth a wide range of recommendations to protect and promote the rights and well-being of women in all spheres of public and private life.
Stressing the need for policies to promote the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men as an essential component of rural life and agricultural development was the Liaison and Public Information Officer in the New York Liaison Office of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD). She said the rapid spread to rural areas of HIV/AIDS in the past 10 years had put an added burden on the women and girls who traditionally cared for the sick.
IFAD's joint projects with the Belgian Survival Fund in Africa that focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment as well economic empowerment had enabled rural women and their families in such countries as Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya to better cope with hard times. She commended the proposed long-term programme of the Women's Commission, particularly the suggestion that rural women be the focus of the 2012 priority theme. The Commission should also consider the link between rural women's empowerment and greater food security, with the World Bank Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook providing important input.
The Director of the Bureau for Gender Equality of the International Labour Organization (ILO) worried that the current global financial woes would exacerbate women's "double burden" of holding jobs in the labour market while taking care of chores and relatives at home. By year's end, women's unemployment worldwide would reach 7.4 per cent compared with 7 per cent for men. Helping women better balance work and family life must be part of national policies to achieve decent and productive work for both sexes.
She called on Governments and all other stakeholders to promote ratification and implementation of ILO's Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention No. 156, which called for equal opportunity and treatment for female and male workers with family responsibilities. She also advised them to increase public investment in infrastructure and services to alleviate unpaid work demands on households and to improve working conditions through shorter work days and more flexible hours that gave working parents time off to care for children and sick relatives.
Echoing concerns about the need to maintain a harmonious balance between work and family life, the Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that, when a father or mother sought work overseas to support a household, that parent's absence from the day-to-day running of the family brought social and economic problems that were frequently overlooked in migration and development policies. International remittances to developing countries, an estimated $283 billion in 2008, were often the main income of a receiving family and were usually used for school fees, materials and other daily expenses. However, the long-term absence of a parent could undermine the very objective that led to the migration in the first place.
Also concerned about that trend, an expert in the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See said Governments should adopt migration laws aimed at creating social integration and full protection for immigrant caregivers. Care in itself, she said, must become a topic of public debate, and take on importance in shaping political life.
A representative of the European Women's Lobby agreed, saying caregiving urgently needed a place on the international political agenda, with the right to care recognized as a fundamental human right by the United Nations. Institutional reform, particularly of the gender equality architecture, should strengthen resources throughout the United Nations to ensure that a meaningful gender-equality framework was driven from the top and brought real change on the ground. The Barcelona Targets on Child Care, agreed to by European Union Heads of State during their 2002 summit, must be achieved by 2010, she said, calling for better scrutiny in all countries of the obstacles to meeting those commitments, particularly as they related to accessibility, affordability and quality. She also called on Governments to adopt gender budgets in their national financial and economic recovery plans to ensure long-term investment in care.
The Asia Pacific Caucus felt that creating a climate in which men and women shared caregiving responsibilities could transform the lives of many women for the better, its speaker said. But legal frameworks and societal attitudes rooted in culture, tradition and customary practices discriminated against women and restricted their rights. The Commission's agreed conclusions currently failed to reflect the need for community-controlled and culturally-appropriate responses to the unequal sharing of responsibility between men and women, and to acknowledge the financial crisis' impact on achieving gender equality. She urged States to lift their reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, conduct national analyses of women's contribution to caregiving and its role in the economy, and institute effective laws and policies to increase women's political participation and funds for women's leadership.
During the general discussion, the Minister for Social Affairs and the Promotion of Women and Children of Guinea spoke, as did senior officials of Cambodia and India.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, Guyana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Peru, Venezuela, Cameroon, Slovenia, Colombia, Switzerland, Saint Lucia, Bangladesh, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bolivia, Armenia, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Nicaragua, Haiti and France.
The Director for Equality Between Men/Women, Action against Discrimination, Civil Society of the European Commission also made remarks.
Also speaking were representatives of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Centre for Gender and Social Development (on behalf of United Nations regional commissions).
Representatives of the Africa Women's Caucus, organizations of Ecumenical Women, Western Asia Caucus, Human Rights Advocates, the International Network of Liberal Women, Women International Democratic Federation, Instituto Internatzionale Maria Ausiliatrice, Salesian Missions (Salesians of Don Bosco and VIDES International), and the International Federation of Woman Lawyers also made statements.
The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 March, to continue its work.
The Commission on the Status of Women met today to continue its general discussion on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century".