PAI Statement on the Commission on the Status of Women and the Generation Equality Forum
Seizing the Moment to Advance Advocacy and Civil Society Leadership on Women’s Rights: U.S. Multilateral Engagement and Global Convenings Spur Opportunity for Progress
Elisha Dunn-Georgiou, vice president of policy and advocacy, PAI
The month of March is a time when the world focuses on the contributions women have made to society. The convenings and conversations over the past month served as an opportunity for all nations and sectors to commit to investing in women and prioritizing sexual and reproductive health and rights as central to peace and prosperity.
International Women’s Day (March 8), with its theme “Choose to Challenge,” reminded the global community that while there is progress toward women’s equality, there is still more to be done. As women’s leadership and achievements to date were celebrated, calls for renewed efforts to combat inequality and injustice across all spheres of life — including the fundamental right to health — were loud and clear.
The rights, representation and equity drumbeat continued during the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) from March 15 to 26. With the theme of women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence for achieving gender equality, female leaders stepped forward and raised their voices in unprecedented ways.
The U.S. government was no exception in lifting up this theme of full participation of women in public life. Vice President Kamala Harris, the highest-ranking U.S. female official ever to address the United Nations, delivered remarks at CSW on the centrality of ensuring women’s rights, noting that the status of women is the status of democracy. By doing so, it was clear to leaders around the world that the United States was re-engaging and embracing the potential of all women.
The closing day of CSW consisted of tense negotiations among member states with no broad agreement on new ways to address gender equality. As a result, nations agreed to reaffirm previously agreed-upon language such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as crucial for gender equality and empowerment, root causes of gender inequality and barriers to women’s full and equal participation in public life. The commitments are repetitive from previous years, but at least they were recognized and remain. Among them are ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, including universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services such as family planning, information and education as well as the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs. In addition, nations recognized that human rights include a woman’s right to have control over and decision-making power on all matters related to her sexuality.
On March 31, the final day of Women’s History Month in the United States, world leaders put forth a vision for bold action in the landmark Generation Equality Forum (GEF), which convened in Mexico City, Mexico from March 29 to 31 and will culminate in Paris, France in June 2021. The GEF comes 25 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women, which launched the Beijing Platform for Action, a comprehensive framework for women’s empowerment and gender equality. The kickoff of the GEF in Mexico concluded with an action coalition blueprint to catalyze commitments for gender equality.
Civil society leaders, donors, private sector partners and bilateral and multilateral agencies came together to chart a course forward where impact toward women’s equality can be accelerated, and investment commitments toward sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and prevention of gender-based violence are required. The GEF created a timely platform for a movement to realize a feminist agenda, informed by women and funded by feminist philanthropy, that supports the overarching development goals of a nation.
The collaborative global conversations over the past month create new momentum for systemic changes necessary to guarantee equity and justice. They also illustrate where bolder national commitments are required and the advocacy needed to achieve such commitments in language and action. The work and impact of PAI and our 96 partners across 33 countries are aligned not only to this moment, but also the future that the world is counting on.
PAI’s mission toward sexual and reproductive health and rights is defined by the voice and leadership of women, civil society partners and local communities. In prioritizing universal access to sexual and reproductive health as central to human rights, our work is grounded in challenging the systems, norms and laws that are shaped by paternalism and are harmful to the health, well-being and progress of women. The commitments from a month of bold leadership and perspective require amplifying evidence and data, taking a whole-of-government approach for scaled impact and investing in the kind of advocacy that propels accountability, collaboration and policy and program impact.
PAI is at the forefront of leading ambitious advancements on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health at home and abroad. As the convenings and conversations continue, we know that our work is urgent. We stand steadfast with our partners around the world on seizing this moment of renewed energy to remove roadblocks and barriers that exist between women and their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
PAI champions policies that put women in charge of their reproductive health. We work with policymakers in Washington, D.C. and our network of partners around the world to remove roadblocks between women and the services and supplies they need. For over 55 years, we’ve helped women succeed by upholding their basic rights. To learn more, visit pai.org.