March 07, 2021

Mercy Global Action Prepares for 65th Commission on the Status of Women

Highlighting Women's Leadership and the Elimination of Gender-based Violence

The sixty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will take place from 15 to 26 March 2021. Every year, the CSW brings together thousands of participants from around the world to share the experiences, challenges and contributions of women, and to advance gender equality. This year, the priority theme is "Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls." In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and taking into account the latest guidance from the United Nations Secretary-General and the World Health Organization, CSW65 will take place in a hybrid format with mostly virtual meetings.

Besides the official meetings of the Commission, which can be viewed live on UN Web TV, the programme of side events and parallel events, or activities organized outside the formal programme of the session of the CSW, provides an excellent opportunity for Member States, UN entities and NGOs to discuss themes of the Commission and other critical gender equality issues. The schedule of virtual side events held by Permanent Missions, Intergovernmental Organizations and UN entities, is continually being updated. The NGO CSW Forum, organized by NGO CSW/NY, runs parallel to the official session taking place at the UN Headquarters. This provides civil society the opportunity to engage in the processes and CSW sessions without ECOSOC-accreditation or a UN grounds pass. Over the two weeks of the CSW, civil society organizations will hold more than 700 events that inform, engage and inspire grassroots efforts and advocacy needed to empower women and girls.

Mercy International Association’s parallel event for CSW65, “Domestic Violence: Gender-based Violence & Degradation of our Common Home,” will be held virtually on Monday, 15 March 2021, 4:00-6:00pm Eastern Daylight Time. During this event, speakers from Papua New Guinea, Peru, Argentina and Australia will share women’s and girls’ experiences and recommendations on domestic and family violence, and will examine the relationship between gender-based violence and violence against Earth. They will discuss the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns as well as the effects of the emerging climate crisis on loss of livelihoods and water and food insecurity, which in turn exacerbate the hidden reality of domestic and family violence. The event will highlight perspectives from the field, including from survivors, practitioners and policymakers, who will speak to how women’s participation drives creative and sustainable solutions to both the climate emergency and social injustices.

Because of the virtual nature of the NGO CSW Forum this year, participants can attend events from all over the world. Attending the Forum is totally free and open to the public. However, you must register and log into a profile on the platform to attend any and all events, including Mercy International Association’s event. After you register, you'll receive an email with a link to log into your profile on the NGO CSW65 Virtual Forum platform. Once you have a profile, you can add events to My Agenda, message other attendees, and post in the Public Forum. Over 10,000 attendees have already registered for the Forum from over 150 countries.

In our written statement to the Commission, Mercy International Association called on UN Member States to recommit to the objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action 25 years after its adoption, and of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 5 years into its implementation. Addressing the needs of girls and women is impossible without representation of their interests in top decision-making positions. An increase in the participation of women in politics affects how their needs are prioritized in policymaking. In addition to advancing gender equality, women in leadership can make a difference to sustainable development benefitting whole societies in the areas of health, education, community wellbeing, poverty reduction, and the protection of Earth. Women’s leadership is empowering and benefits their communities, countries, and the world as a whole.

Mercy Sisters, Associates and Partners have been committed to supporting women’s and girls’ leadership from their inception. In the words of our founder Catherine McAuley, "Whatever be the station (women) are destined to fill, their example and advice will always possess influence." Today, the Mercy Global Action Emerging Leaders Fellowship offers women leadership and skills-based training. This provides them with a foundation to actively participate in policymaking at all levels to achieve systemic change. In her keynote address to the Inaugural MELF Graduation on 20 February, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson stated, “I'd like to commend Mercy International for this initiative of an Emerging Leaders Fellowship to help extend women’s sphere of influence in our world… We need to understand that women’s leadership in our world really matters. Why does it matter? Because women tend to lead differently, to be more problem solving, to be more collaborative, to be less hierarchical, and more or less, to be more listening.”

A major global barrier to women’s and girls’ full participation and leadership is sexual and gender-based violence, which often renders them silent. As a result, they are unable to participate fully in society, have influence, and to advocate for human and Earth rights. Addressing patriarchal structures, masculine stereotypes of power, discriminatory practices, and threats and acts of violence against women and girls is an important step towards building an enabling environment for equitable and meaningful participation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed widespread and deeply-rooted injustice, especially towards women and girls. While this existed long before this global public health crisis, it has been further exacerbated. The socio-economic crisis that has accompanied the spread of the virus has had wide-reaching and devastating effects. Mercy Global Action’s report “Hope in a Time of Pandemic: Reflecting on COVID-19 through a Mercy Lens” contains stories and experiences of the impacts of the pandemic, including an increase in gender-based violence in many countries.

Mercy Sisters, Associates and Partners continue to raise awareness of issues of violence, abuse, gender-based violence and human trafficking especially during the pandemic. We strive to eliminate these issues by addressing the lack of prevention, access to essential services and other social protections. We seek to empower women and girls and to strengthen their capacities to claim their rights. Through individual, local, national and global mobilization, we can challenge harmful gender narratives that justify violence against women and stigmatize survivors. Like Catherine McAuley, we will continue to work with women and girls to form a just and inclusive world.

Messages to Cecile Kern - Global Policy & Research Advocate MIA-MGA

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