The next two weeks promise a whirlwind of discussion – and hopefully, commitment to action – on gender equality.
World leaders, experts, and women from across civil society are gathering now: this is the Commission for the Status of Women, holding its sixty-sixth annual meeting (CSW66). The CSW is the main global body for working toward gender equality and women’s empowerment, and for monitoring our world’s progress on achieving them. This year, CSW focuses on gender equality in the context of climate crisis – which we know affects women and girls more in specific ways. Leaders at CSW66 will discuss how to make sure the way we respond to the climate crisis works for, not against, gender equality.
The climate crisis gains ground alongside the pandemic, exacerbating human suffering, especially and in unique ways for women, girls, LGBTQIA+ and racialized and marginalized communities. We know that gender justice and equality are inextricably linked to climate justice, economic justice and social justice. The laws, policies, social and economic structures of our world are harming and killing women as well as the planet: our response to climate crisis – and to the global pandemic – must fight back against these structural forms of violence.
Thankfully, women, girls, trans and non-binary people everywhere are already showing us what fighting structural violence looks like. It’s their leadership we need, and it’s their leadership Oxfam looks to. Civil society has been crucial in developing global frameworks for progressing gender equality and continues to play a key role in holding leaders accountable for their commitments in CSW and beyond.
Many of these women leaders will be taking part in events throughout CSW66 that they’ve developed together with Oxfam.
Here is what world leaders need to commit to for delivering gender equality, and the events you can attend to hear from women leading change in these areas:
Get serious about the climate crisis
We know that women, girls, trans and non-binary people are impacted differently and disproportionately by the climate crisis. Gender equality will not matter if we destroy the planet. It’s more important than ever to stick to the 1.5°C goal set out in the Paris Agreement.
The impacts of the climate crisis are gendered, which means that to successfully alleviate human suffering, the response mechanisms (disaster preparedness, risk reduction/response, climate mitigation and adaptation plans) must also be gendered. Climate finance needs to focus on vulnerable countries and communities but in particular, it has to be equal and accessible to women, girls, trans and non-binary people.
We need the voices of women leaders at the heart of discussions and decisions about climate crisis, women’s land rights, how natural resources and revenues from them are used; we particularly need to be led by rural and Indigenous women and to protect their land and territorial rights against the effects of the climate crisis.
Any extractive industry projects need to have independent, publicly-shared gendered and intersectional analysis of impacts they could have. They must demonstrate that indigenous and local communities directly affected give free, prior, and informed consent. Furthermore, extractive projects must prioritize the protection of women and land defenders against gender-based violence, and provide accountable and accessible grievance mechanisms too. We can and should require companies to demonstrate that they don’t tolerate violence against women and land defenders, including by anyone they do business with.
Learn more from climate justice changemakers at these events:
• 14 March: panelists explore how a Feminist Natural Resource Governance agenda – that centers women’s leadership and the lived realities of frontline communities –offers a pathway to a just transition away from extraction-based development models.
• 16 March: Promoting women’s participation in decision-making in addressing Climate Change: Tanzania’s Village Land-Use Planning Framework as a way to guarantee women’s land rights and contribute to the fight against climate change.
• 17 March: a virtual conversation on indigenous women: Proposals to Address the Impacts of Climate Crisis shares efforts from Indigenous territories to counteract the impacts of climate change based on Indigenous ancestral science and technology, in order to incorporate proposals into the conclusions of CSW66.
• 25 March: Youth ecofeminist voices: Connecting Regional Activisms amplifies and connects the global youth movement with the current most relevant feminist climate intersectional initiatives globally, with three ecofeminist voices from different regions.
Prioritize women’s economic justice
Both the climate crisis and the global COVID-19 pandemic have pushed the clock back on gender economic equality. Women lost disproportionately more land, income, and paid employment during the pandemic. Throughout it all, the unpaid care work performed largely by women and girls also skyrocketed, further reducing their economic independence and empowerment –from education to stable, decent, paid employment opportunities. In addition to unpaid care and domestic work they do, in their paid work women are also over-represented in underpaid and unprotected forms of work, which further contributes to the disproportionate impacts of the combined climate and pandemic crises they experience (and often exposes them to still more gender-based violence).
Making women’s economic empowerment a priority helps address these effects. We need to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and start treating care work like the critical infrastructure it is –that includes investing in care systems, particularly in COVID-19recovery plans and budgets, and expanding social protection for people who do paid care work too. Those working in paid care work also need to be part of the decisions about laws and policies on the right to care.
Public services are a key tool for reducing gender economic inequalities; women are represented disproportionately as both workers in and users of these services. We need to urgently scale up our public health systems:primary health care, free for all at point of use with no user fees; and more health workers. Universal health coverage needs urgent and ongoing finance. Social protection (the systems that help the vulnerable cope with crises and shocks, find jobs, invest in their families’ health and education, protect the ageing) needs to cover everybody and to include both short-term basic emergency income, and longer-term basic income security.
Women’s economic empowerment is also about shifting how we think about ‘progress’ and care: we need to recognize, reduce,and redistribute the unpaid care work that takes up the time of women and girls; and we need to commit to measuring socioeconomic progress beyond metrics like GDP and income, and instead look at labor rights, health and care as how we determine success or progress.
Learn more from economic justice changemakers:
• 17 March: a panel on Care and Climate –Addressing a Compounding Crisis will highlight the connections between care work and climate change, and the need to tackle them together.
• 21 March: join a talk show-style panel and visioning exercise on Imaginings of and Lessons from a Feminist Economic Transformation.
• 23 March: Caring in a Changing Climate will explore how a care-transformative approach can strengthen women’s climate resilience and advance gender justice.
Invest in ending gender-based violence
Gender-based violence isn’t limited to interactions between individuals, it’s a product of and built into our economies, societies, and politics. All of the above actions around women’s leadership, climate crisis, and economic empowerment have implications for the structural forms of gendered violence our current socio-economic-political systems mete out. But we can and must do more.
It’s vital to fund feminist and women’s rights organizations already leading the work to end gender-based violence. That’s necessary but not sufficient: gender equality cannot advance until all governments seriously invest in preventing gender-based violence in their national budgets too. Funding for this needs to be built into national, regional and global COVID-19 response and recovery plans, given the spike in gender-based violence that followed many pandemic mitigation measures. Governments also need to make sure that those who perpetrate gender-based violence are brought to justice: establish and strengthen rule of law to do this, particularly after conflicts, so that peace is sustainable.
We know that the climate crisis is exacerbating other forms of conflict and crisis, and the knock-on effects of these. When it comes to gender-based violence and crisis, governments must commit to preventing gender-based violence against women and LGBTQIA+ people in conflict and in peace processes, and keep this on the agenda in all discussions about women, peace, and security. Governments also need to act on the commitments already outlined in the international ‘Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies’ (a global initiative to transform how this violence is addressed in humanitarian emergencies)
Learn more from women leaders:
• 16 March: a panel and film screening that showcases the power of Bringing Local Southern Voices to the Discourse on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, Sexual and Reproductive Health for Young People in Southern Africa.
We hope you enjoy learning from all these phenomenal women changemakers during CSW66!
You can read more detail of what we’re calling for in Oxfam International’s CSW66 Statement.