–Rachel Falkenstein, Program Coordinator, Legacy International

The sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place at the United Nations Headquarters in March. Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC partner organizations from all regions of the world were represented. I was amazed at how many organizations, universities, governments, and individuals were focused solely on women’s issues. There were over 8,000 organizations registered!

This year’s theme was Women’s Economic Empowerment, but sessions covered everything from indigenous women to girls, war time to peace time, rural to urban, and so much more. I heard speakers from Jordan, Lebanon, US, Australia, Egypt, Iran, Palestine, Brazil, Iraq, UK, India, Malta, Indonesia, France, and South Africa. Each session presented a new perspective to hear, a new idea for creating change, and a shared sense of “we can do this!”

On Friday, March 17, I attended a town hall style meeting with the new Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Listening to him talk about what he wants to see in the UN and the world, particularly around Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, was inspiring. SG Guterres has only been in this position since the New Year, yet he has already expressed a passion and commitment to women’s issues around the world. He agreed that having women in all areas of political and social life were important, claiming it was a “question of empowerment” and believes that the best way to improve governance is by working with civil society. He is committed to full gender parity at all levels of the UN before 2030 and agrees that girls should not just be an “and” clause (i.e. … women, and girls) but should be thought of equally and independently since the issues girls face are unique to them. SG even pledged that the new Youth Envoy to the UN would be female.

As a global society, we cannot expect to move forward while neglecting half of the world’s population. Equality will bring an increase in global welfare and will encourage progress in the economics and health of the women themselves, their families, their communities, and eventually the world.