Just because it was International Women’s Day on March 8, we focus on women all week! Why not?
You are reading This Week @UN, summarizing the most pressing issues before the organization. The information is culled from UN press briefings, PassBlue reporting and other sources. This week the UN’s annual conference on women’s rights, the Commission on the Status of Women, or CSW, opened its 11-day session on March 6.
Covering the mega-conference at UN headquarters and its vicinity has entailed working 10-hour days for some of PassBlue’s team this week. But it’s an important conference that happens just once a year, and this year it’s clear from the huge in-person turnout that it has found its mojo again, after the Covid-19 pandemic derailed it somewhat. Please donate to PassBlue, a women-led, independent media site. Thank you for your important support of our journalism.
• Influence: Dawn Clancy, a freelance reporter for PassBlue, was a panelist at a Global Women Leaders’ Voices for Change and Inclusion event, “Combating Online Violence Against Women in Politics,” during the CSW, March 8, below.
• As Mali distances itself from France, PassBlue has seen a letter from Mali’s envoy to the UN Security Council, rejecting France’s longtime role as “penholder” on issues related to the West African country. One Council diplomat suggested to PassBlue that Ghana, an elected member, could be a logical choice to take the responsibility, given that it is also in the region.
• The second edition of Blue Smoke, our new collaborative project with UNA-UK, detailing high-level UN personnel appointments, was published on March 4. For tips, please email firstname.lastname@example.org; all information is kept confidential.
Sunday, March 5
• The Annual UN Women’s Gathering Is Here. So Is Civil Society’s Parallel Forum, All Pushing for Gender Equality: Houry Geudelekian reflects candidly on her journey to becoming chair of the US-based NGO Committee on the Status of Women. Her role started years ago, when a lifeline from a friend was extended to Geudelekian after her divorce to run the civil society group’s parallel conference to the UN’s CSW.
Monday, March 6
• Pushing Back Against the Pushback: How the Nordics Tackle Online Gender Violence: The CSW kicked off this year with a Nordic perspective on gender equality, particularly combating violence against women online (and off). Dulcie Leimbach, PassBlue’s editor, summarized and contextualized the discussion led by Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden as well as Greenland and Faroe Islands. Utmost in the fight to stopping gender violence digitally and in the “real world”: legislation, legislation, legislation. The article was reposted by Ms. Magazine.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for Secretary-General António Guterres, answered a question from an Irish reporter about the UN chief’s strong commitment to gender equality and therefore making a “grand gesture” by “stepping aside and giving his job to a woman?” Reply: “Resigning is not something the Secretary-General is contemplating doing in any way, shape, or form. He will continue and has, I think, shown demonstrable results in improving and reaching gender parity in the senior post that he appoints, right? Because he doesn’t have the authority over the whole administration. Putting in place a strategy to reach gender parity at the professional levels to ensure that there is more equitable and clearer representation.”
Tuesday, March 7
• In Afghanistan, No Women No Future: The steep decline in women’s rights in Afghanistan was lamented repeatedly at the CSW this week, and Habiba Sarabi, a former governor in the country, describes the desperation of women and girls there while reminding the world that the “security of women and girls is paramount to the stability and future of all nations.”
• Spokesperson’s briefing: It keeps getting worse for women in Afghanistan, as a new report released by the Geneva-based International Labor Organization documents that female employment in the country dropped 25 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022, compared with the second quarter of 2021, before the Taliban took over in mid-August 2021. Male employment in the same period decreased seven percent. “Restrictions on women’s participation in the labour market have contributed to the decline,” the report said. “Home-based self-employment has become the predominant form of women’s participation in the labour market, which has prevented the figure falling further.”
Wednesday, March 8
• International Women’s Day: Throwing a Spotlight on Muslim Women’s Rights: Islam is considered by many people in the world as a religion that represses women, but the Pakistani foreign minister has a different view. Damilola Banjo writes about the minister’s passionate speech at a CSW event as she uses data revealing a grim picture of women’s status in the country.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Still on Afghanistan, half of its professionals — women — are unable to work and use their talents as they face tightening restrictions in their daily movements, like going outside the home. The UN special representative in the country, Roza Otunbayeva, told the Security Council that the Taliban’s punitive decrees on women might also portend a drop in international funding to the country. She also shared concerns about the UN’s ability to deliver aid with the “looming threat of ISIL-K to our own security and that of our NGO implementing partners.”
Thursday, March 9
• Feminist Foreign Policies Make Headway Among Countries While the Originator, Sweden, Drops Out: Maurizio Guerrero covers the slow progress of feminist foreign policies at an event organized by Chile, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands and Spain. His verdict? “Although it’s a concept that has no firm definition,” the policy “has become a heading that some countries use to force the international community to at least imagine what it means and how to carry it out.” The concept couldn’t be more important, he adds, “as women’s rights suffer brutal setbacks in countries like Afghanistan and Iran and as gender equality gains seem to be slipping away in the industrialized world.”
• Spokesperson’s briefing: As Russia takes the rotating presidency of the Security Council in April, despite its blatant violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson, was asked whether a “State that commits war crimes can preside over the UN Security Council?” Reply: “You’re well aware of the rules of the Security Council, including the alphabetical rotation of the Member States of the Security Council for the presidency of the Council, which is a policy that is held throughout the lifespan of the Security Council, and we have nothing further to say than that.” He also noted that UN colleagues in Ukraine say that the “country has experienced another massive wave of strikes that, once again, killed civilians in several regions of the country.” (Russia’s latest attack occurred at about the same time that Guterres and a small UN delegation were leaving Kyiv, the capital, after meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky on March 8.)
Friday, March 10
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Today is International Day of Women Judges. According to Dujarric, “The representation of women in the judiciary is significant for ensuring that the legal system is developed with all of society in mind.” Yet a relatively small number of women have been — or are part of — the judiciary, particularly at senior-level leadership posts, he added.
• The head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, an Argentine, has been reappointed to a second four-year term, beginning in early December 2023.
• Tirana Hassan, acting executive director of Human Rights Watch, met with UN-based reporters in New York City on March 9. One comment that stood out particularly by her: Russia plans to run for a Human Rights Council seat again after being ousted from the Geneva body last year.
• In 2022, women’s representation in the world’s parliaments continued to slowly rise “as the world re-emerged after two years of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and losses,” according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
• On March 4, an Ocean Treaty was agreed on at the UN, after almost two decades of negotiations. The text will go through technical editing and translation before being officially adopted at another UN session. The treaty protects 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030.
We welcome your comments on this article. What are your thoughts on the CSW?
Damilola Banjo is a staff reporter for PassBlue. She has a master’s of science degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. in communications and language arts from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She has worked as a producer for NPR’s WAFE station in Charlotte, N.C.; for the BBC as an investigative journalist; and as a staff investigative reporter for Sahara Reporters Media.