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UN Secretary-General: Gender equality is centuries away

Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the Commission on the Status of Women

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (Screenshot)

LOUISVILLE — In remarks on Monday to the Commission on the Status of Women, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned that gender equality is centuries away and called for worldwide efforts to empower women.

“Progress won over decades is vanishing before our eyes,” Guterres said. In fact, achieving gender equality is so distant at this point that UN Women “puts it 300 years away.”

He recommended the following steps to equalize power:

  • Increase education, income and employment for women and girls, especially in the Global South.
  • Promote women and girls’ full participation and leadership in science and technology, from governments and boardrooms to classrooms.
  • Create a safe digital environment for women and girls.

“So called ‘gender-trolling’ is specifically aimed at silencing women and forcing them out of public life,” he said. “The stories may be fake, but the damage done is very real.”

Guterres spoke as thousands of people gathered in New York for the 67th session of the commission. The event (#CSW67) takes place annually and attracts delegates from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Presbyterian Women who are interested in gender equality-related advocacy and education.

“The Commission on the Status of Women is a dynamo and catalyst for the transformation we need,” Guterres said after citing multiple ways that women and girls are being hurt and undermined around the globe. “Together, let us push back against the pushback on women’s rights, against misogyny, and forward for women, girls and our world.”

The #CSW67 gathering takes place at a time when women are suffering setbacks, such as the rolling back of women’s sexual and reproductive rights in many places, and schoolgirls being at risk of kidnapping and assault, Guterres said. He also spoke of maternal mortality increasing; Covid resulting in child marriages and job losses; and war and conflict hitting females hard.

“From Ukraine to the Sahel (in Africa), crisis and conflict effect women and girls first and worst,” he said. “And at the international level, some countries now even oppose the inclusion of a gender perspective in multilateral negotiations.”

He lamented that women in Afghanistan have been “erased from public life,” and later noted that the Deputy Secretary-General and the Executive Director of UN Women recently visited the country with a clear message that “women and girls have fundamental human rights, and we will never give up fighting for them.”

Many of Guterres’ other remarks revolved around #CSW67’s priority theme: “innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”

“Your focus this year on closing gender gaps in technology and innovation could not be more timely, because as technology races ahead, women and girls are being left behind,” he said. “Centuries of patriarchy, discrimination and harmful stereotypes have created a huge gender gap in science and technology.”

Most of the 3 billion people who aren’t connected to the internet are women and girls in developing countries, and girls and women make up just one-third of students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, he said.

“In the field of artificial intelligence, only about one out of five workers is a woman,” Guterres said. “And artificial intelligence is shaping our future world. Let’s hope it will not be shaped in a totally gender-biased way.”

Leaders from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Presbyterian Women have been working for months to ensure that people could come to #CSW67 to hear about such issues and work toward solutions. Many are getting to attend in person this year while others are online, and there are opportunities for all to come together for worship and other activities.

Sue Rheem

“This year we started meeting in September to plan #CSW67,” said Ivy Lopedito, who’s a member of the Presbyterian planning team and part of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. “We truly devote a lot of time to making sure this commission is excellent.”

There are hundreds of side and parallel events for participants to attend, either in person or online.

“It is always our hope that the delegates will learn about the issues, the themes, by attending the events during CSW, meet fellow delegates and share their stories, and look for opportunities to advocate when (they) go back home to their communities,” said Sue Rheem, PMUN’s coordinator. “The bonding experience leads to better advocacy when you know a person’s story.”

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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