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Fifty-ninth Session,
13th & 14th Meetings (AM & PM)

No Longer an ‘Add-on’, Gender-Based Data Collection Poised to Shape Policy, Trigger Action in Post-2015 Era, Expert Panel Tells Women’s Commission

Gender-sensitive, disaggregated data must be an integral part of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and no longer treated as an “afterthought”, the Commission on the Status of Women heard today as statistical experts took centre stage.

During an interactive discussion on gender statistics and indicators, panellists agreed that gender should be at the core of planning, collecting, using and disseminating data in the post-2015 era if the new development agenda stood a chance of eradicating poverty and improving the lives of men and women around the world.

“Statistics are a critical tool when it comes to building policy, as well as bringing about effective action,” said the panel’s moderator, Marcela Eternod Arámburu, Executive Secretary, National Institute for Women of Mexico.  Noting that much progress had been made in collecting gender-disaggregated data since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995, she underscored that it was not merely a matter of translating the situation of women into numbers, but of collecting data that would help to decide how to move forward.  “We need an inclusive vision that shines light on the equality gap between women and men,” she said.

Agreeing, Masako Hiraga, senior statistician and economist at the World Bank’s Development Data Group, said data collection was a crucial investment in the sustainable development agenda and not an “add-on”.  Describing several projects that the Bank was supporting — including a survey on women’s time use in Ethiopia — she went on to say that, “if data is not used, it’s not useful”.  The Bank, therefore, provided freely available statistics, including on gender.

The United Nations Statistics Division also had an important coordinating role in supporting gender statistics activities in many countries, said Keiko Osaki-Tomita, chief of the Division’s Demographic and Social Statistics Branch.  Efforts included organizing a global forum and developing methodology and capacity-building.  While, today, gender statistics were now available from 150 countries, there were significant disparities among countries and regions.  Many national statistics offices still lacked adequate human and financing resources to collect, analyse and disseminate gender statistics, she said.  To remedy that, she said more commitment to gender issues was needed from politicians.

Providing national experience, Pali Lehohla, Statistician-General of South Africa, said it was important to deconstruct the question of gender statistics to understand all of it facets.  Relevant questions must be answered, such as what and why data should be measured, who were the “beneficiaries of oppression” and who were the oppressed.  Statistical work in South Africa had found large disparities in terms of gender and race in areas such as education, the labour market and health.  Asking such questions held the key to changing the paradigm and deconstructing colonialism, patriarchy, class and other related structures, he said.

Several panellists described specific statistical surveys, providing insight into the often difficult process of collection, use and dissemination.  Nguyen Thi Viet Nga, a statistician with Viet Nam’s General Statistics Office, shared a recent study on violence against women in her country.  Questions were asked of women, such as whether they had ever been abused by their husbands, and qualitative responses were recorded.  The study had required careful planning and delicate implementation, she stressed, adding that “it’s not a simple survey, and you have to be very careful with this sensitive information”.

When the floor opened for a dialogue, several representatives shared their countries’ achievements.  A number of speakers referred to the set of 52 quantitative and 11 normative indicators that had been adopted by Member States in 2013 on such areas as health, education, human rights and violence against women, with some saying that the core group of minimum indicators should serve as a guide for States going forward.

Describing the data collection landscape in Sudan, that country’s representative said economic and social surveys had been gender-disaggregated and collected from different ministries.  The country had created a unit for gender statistics to develop a conceptual framework for gender analysis, and in 2014, it had undertaken a domestic survey and launched a questionnaire to define women’s needs, including their access to property and balanced nutrition.  Switzerland’s speaker said over the last 20 years, her country had created and developed a sound database and system of indicators, including on the status of equality and advancement of women.  However, gaps remained and greater data was needed, for example, on the gender-specific consequences of divorce.

Calling attention to current inadequacies in data collection, a representative of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission expressed concern at the exclusion of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons from data collection and analysis.  Noting that data on their welfare were either counted and deemed irrelevant or not counted at all, she stressed that a post-2015 development agenda should leave no one behind.

Similarly, a number of speakers, including Finland’s representative, stressed that new information and data on violence against women was needed to advance the discussion on the topic.  On that issue, Ms. Osaki-Tomita responded that the availability of statistics had been enormously enhanced.  Mr. Lehohla added that it was important to link the criminal justice system to gender equality efforts, while Ms. Nga highlighted the importance of respecting and being sensitive to victims and others who had provided such information.

Ms. Hiraga said the “time was right” for gender statistics.  As the topic took centre stage in the post-2015 development agenda, all stakeholders must take advantage of the momentum and collaborate to explore innovative processes and technologies for data analysis and collection.

Also participating in the conversation were representatives of Italy, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guyana, Indonesia, the Delegation of the European Union, China, Mexico, Iran, Kenya, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, Philippines, Turkey, Mali, United States, United Republic of Tanzania, Nepal, Chad, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Benin, Japan, Mongolia and Samoa.

Speaking during the general debate were representatives of Mauritius, Mauritania, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Libya, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.  The Commission also heard from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), International Development Law Organization, World Health Organization (WHO), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).

Also delivering statements were representatives of non-governmental organizations ActionAid, Amnesty International, Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, Centre for Women’s Global Leadership/Post-2015 Women’s Coalition, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, European Women’s Lobby, Fundación para Estudio Investigación de la Mujer, HelpAge International, International Center for Research on Women, International Federation of University Women, International Indigenous Women’s Forum, International Pen, International Planned Parenthood Federation, International Trade Union Confederation and IPAS.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 March.

In the afternoon, the Commission continued its general debate.


MARIE-AURORE MARIE-JOYCE PERRAUD, Minister for Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare of Mauritius, said since commitments made in Beijing, inequalities had been addressed in the social, economic and political sectors.  The adoption of a National Gender Policy Framework in 2008 had led to the institutionalization of gender in the public sector, while her ministry was building capacity and raising awareness.  Girls were outperforming boys at the primary and secondary levels of education and had a greater choice in subjects, she said, elaborating on other gains, including free health services accessible to women and the enactment, in 1997, of a law addressing domestic violence.  Despite the political will to reduce gender gaps, critical issues remained, such as physical and sexual abuse, high poverty and unemployment rates, their under-representation in Parliament and patriarchal attitudes.  Exacerbating those challenges were a lack of resources to address gender issues and a dearth of gender-focused research, she said.

LEMINA MINT EL GHOTOB OULD MOMA, Minister for Social Affairs, Children and Family of Mauritania, said women had made strides towards prosperity and economic participation.  Over the last year, a national strategy on women’s issues had been endorsed and laws on social affairs, particularly to combat violence against women, were being adjusted.  The Government supported all international instruments in support of women, within the graces of Islam, she said.  In 2014, the country joined the African Union initiative to combat early marriage.  Progress in her country including declining maternal deaths and increased participation in decision-making, she said, noting that currently there were nine female ministers and six mayors and women held 33 seats in Parliament.

ONITIANA REALY, Minister for Population, Social Promotion and Protection of Women of Madagascar, stressed the impacts of climate change on advances made by women.  Women were losing their belongings and lives, and girls might lose a school year due to flooding, she said, noting that the Government was making efforts to mitigate those problems.  She urged the cooperation of international partners in mitigating the effects of climate change so as not to regress on progress made.  There had been a progressive, if slow, increase in political participation, with women now representing 21 per cent of Parliament and holding an increasing number of ministerial positions, including as head of the election reform process.  Yet, there was still a long way to go to achieve the goal as the Beijing Platform for Action had not been fully implemented.  In that regard, her department was devising a framework law requiring all ministries to implement a gender approach in all of their actions.

EUGÉNIE YARAFA, Minister for Social Affairs, Gender Promotion and Humanitarian Action of the Central African Republic, said even though her country had suffered a series of military and political crises since 1996, a great deal had been accomplished.  Among those gains, she said a political document on human rights and gender equality had been drafted in 2005 resulting in raised awareness in public and private institutions and the Government was currently reviewing a draft law on gender equality aimed at increasing women’s participation in the public and private sectors.  The Government had also adopted a law in 2006 on women’s health and had “beefed up” policies to promote the gender perspective in all areas and combating violence against women.  A national action plan to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security had been adopted in 2013, she said, adding that a woman had been elected to guide the nation during the current time of crisis.  Unfortunately, as of 2012, those efforts had been all but nullified by the security situation, including thousands of women being raped and exposed to violence and the destruction of school infrastructure.  Still, the Government had found diverse solutions for its transition to a lasting peace, including the issues of gender and development, she said, underling the need of the international community’s support in that regard.

MARIE FRANÇOISE DIKOUMBA, Minister for Health and Social Forecasting of Gabon, said her country had taken a number of steps, including establishing gender focal points in ministries and various support measures for women, including access to microcredit.  Gabon was also seeking to redouble its efforts in areas that still had shortcomings.  Despite significant progress, the national, regional and international record still showed that there were many challenges, such as the persistence of violence against issues, early marriages and pregnancies.  As the international community mobilized itself for the implementation of the post-2015 agenda, she invited all States to step up efforts to advance the rights of women, whose participatory role in the sustainable development process was essential.  In closing, she said the different but equal needs of men, women, boys and girls needed to be considered to make progress in the world’s societies.

MONICA MUTSVANGWA (Zimbabwe) said her Government had adopted legislative policies to administer the 12 critical areas of the Declaration.  As gender mainstreaming was central to achieving national development agendas,  the Government had prioritized its commitment to eradicating poverty and empowering women.  As highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report, the way macroeconomic policies were designed and implemented had a direct impact on whether or not gender equality was achieved.  In that vein, the Government was setting up a women’s bank to increase access to capital and was working to improve girls’ access to education.  In terms of health, gains included a decline in maternal mortality.  However, violence against women remained a key obstacle to achieving women’s equality.  On child marriages, Zimbabwe, partnering with religious leaders, had launched its “18 plus” campaign, she said.

IBRAHIM DABBASHI (Libya) said despite his country’s difficult circumstances, authorities were keen to fulfil their international commitments with regard to the protection and enhancement of women’s rights.  Peace and social development could not be achieved without women’s active participation, he said, emphasizing women’s roles forging peace and advancing human rights.  With some extremist groups attempting to marginalize them, Libyan women had paid a high price over the past four years, being targeted, threatened or killed by militias for supporting fundamental liberties.  While the current situation made it impossible to supply indicators in the 12 critical areas of concern, he said Libyan authorities had achieved some progress, with women making up 16 per cent of the Senate.  In addition, 6 women in a committee of 60 people working to make a new Constitution and 68 per cent of those practising law in Libya were women, he said.

EDEN CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago) said his Government, headed by its first female Prime Minster, had made significant progress in making gender equality the core of its socioeconomic policy and its approach to sustainable development.  Ranked thirty-sixth in the 2013 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, his country’s laws also addressed issues of discrimination of women in the workplace, the safety of unborn children and property rights.  Gender equality and the empowerment of women could not be achieved without mainstreaming a gender perspective into policies, programmes and projects.  Without gender-responsive budgeting, the critical engagement of boys and partnerships with non-governmental organizations, civil society and other stakeholders, mainstreaming would remain elusive.  Yet, challenges remained and Trinidad and Tobago would continue to work with all members of the international community and civil society to implement the post-2015 development agenda that recognized the role of women.

INDRANIE CHANDARPAL (Guyana) said her country had made great strides, including joining the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and enshrining that instrument in the Constitution.  Further, Government legislation had stipulated that women must make up at least one third of candidates selected by political parties contesting national and regional elections.  The Government had also enacted legislation on the right to free and safe abortions and had outlawed marital rape, incest and rape.  However, as violence against women persisted, Guyana had initiated a bureau to work with men on the issue.  She also pointed to the remaining challenges of discrimination against vulnerable groups, including women from indigenous communities, those with HIV/AIDS and the elderly.

EDWARD HEIDT, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, stressed the disproportionate impact of natural disasters on women and the importance of women being fully engaged in all phases of disaster management.  For its part, the Federation was addressing the needs of women and girls in emergencies, he said, noting that the intersection between gender inequality and disability, including the increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence, required greater attention.  Turning to the unfinished Millennium Development Goals, he said it was unlikely that current efforts would achieve Goals 4 and 5 (reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, respectively).  The thirty-first International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 2011 had adopted a resolution calling on States and national societies to work together to commit to reducing health inequities.  He also welcomed the current proposal for Goal 3 of the sustainable development goals, calling for the achievement of universal health care.

INAS MEKKAWI, League of Arab States, reaffirmed its commitment towards issues of women’s empowerment and achieving a common vision of protecting and promoting women’s rights.  The Commission was meeting while the priorities of sustainable development remained a subject of discussion.  The League was able, as a regional group, to integrate the goal for women’s empowerment as an independent goal among those priorities.  That goal would be pursued by the international community through clear policies to protect women from all forms of discrimination.  While delegates met today at the United Nations, Arab nations suffered from great turbulence that was perhaps the most severe in its modern history, with great changes taking place on the ground.  The turbulence of terrorism had threatened the dreams of Arab people to achieve change and dignity and had undermined tolerance.  Women in the Arab world had sacrificed much, he said, including women in Palestine and Syria.

Ms. ISMAIL, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that the Commission had taken a leading role in post-2015 agenda discussions.  While the Beijing Declaration was a landmark decision, the international community could and must do better.  Women’s empowerment and combating violence against women and girls were identified in the new OIC plan of action, which reflected a broad perspective of the well-being of women, children and the elderly and was also aimed at correcting misconceptions of women’s status within Islam.  Despite progress made to achieve gender equality, women in many parts of the world, particularly those in conflict zones and those under occupation, suffered from poverty and marginalization.  The OIC reiterated its position that the occupation of Palestine had severely impacted the entire Palestinian population, particularly women and children, affecting them daily and inhibiting their ability to improve their lives.  It was clear that women played a vital role in peace and security and must be encouraged and supported in those areas to ensure a peaceful future for generations to come, he said.

FATIMATA DIA SOW, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), affirmed the commitment to the global agenda to advance and empower women and said the Community had made efforts to integrate women into the socioeconomic development of its member countries.  Those States were required to institute policies to advance women.  She confirmed the commitment to improve the living conditions of people in West Africa and noted that considerable efforts had also been made towards gender with regard to peace and security to place women at the centre of political dialogue.  ECOWAS was implementing various programmes and providing the necessary frameworks to integrate those issues and help achieve development goals.  Yet, the debt crisis, armed conflict and the AIDS crisis, as well as the Ebola crisis and the emergence of terrorist groups were major constraints to realizing the goals of the Beijing Platform and the Millennium Development Goals.  Still, she said, it was necessary to keep the momentum underway to help women flourish in West Africa.

Ms. O’CONNELL, International Development Law Organization, said that inequality was a daily reality for many women and girls.  Law was an essential tool to combat gender inequality, yet in many countries, the legal system was used as a tool for women’s oppression.  Women often lacked access to the justice system, and when they had it, were frequently stymied by discriminatory laws.  Traditional and customary systems were more accessible to women, but sometimes were entrenched in societal customs that held women back.  In many places, women did not know their rights or how to claim them.  Ensuring that women were on the front line of the provision of justice, whether in the judicial system or law enforcement, would contribute to true justice for women, she said.  Unless women’s rights were guaranteed through the rule of law, the international community would be unable to meet its development goals.

Ms. KHAN, World Health Organization (WHO), said maternal mortality and infant morbidity had been reduced over the last few years and high-level political will had increased.  However, barriers persisted that were preventing women from accessing services.  Non-communicable diseases were emerging as grave dangers.  Addressing risk factors through interventions targeting younger women and girls were needed to prevent deaths from such diseases at a later age.  To advance the development agenda beyond 2015, access to universal health care and access to resources and improved governance were needed.  The renewed Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health would be the Organization’s principal tool in addressing those issues.

MALAYAH HARPER, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said despite major advances over the past 20 years and the continued decline in new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths, young women and girls were being left behind.  New HIV infections among adolescents and young people from age 10 to 24 had decreased by approximately 41 per cent since 1995, but globally 64 per cent of all new infections in adolescents were among girls.  In Eastern and Southern Africa, that figure rose to 75 per cent.  To save millions of lives, she said the opportunity to “fast track” the response to HIV must be seized, using an evidence-informed, rights-based and gender-responsive approach.  Otherwise, the economic, social and moral costs of inaction would be felt for years to come, she cautioned.

The representative of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said her agency had put women’s economic empowerment at the forefront of its action.  She hoped that present and future efforts would overcome the weakness of the Millennium Development Goals while building on their achievements.  The international community should recognize the linkages needed to achieve a new paradigm of development.  Only if women were economically empowered could they benefit from the improvement of economic policies.  Trade was not an end in itself, but rather an instrument of development and should be a tool to empower women.  For its part, the UNCTAD entrepreneurship programme had reached more than 300,000 people around the world, 30 per cent of which were women.

KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), said on Women’s Day this year, his organization had asked if female workers if they were better off than 20 years ago.  The answer was “yes”, he said.  While progress had not met expectations, there was much to be proud of, even if the work was far from completed.  If gender equality and women’s empowerment was to become a reality, the workplace would be a key arena for its implementation.  With that in mind, ILO had developed an extensive framework to promote and ensure equality in employment and occupation with a view to eliminating discrimination.  Improving women’s access to work, including senior work, required addressing issues of maternity protection and childcare.  With 40 per cent of countries providing some type of paternity leave, there was a growing recognition of the important role of fathers.  But, challenges remained, with persisting gender stereotypes on childrearing and job categories, as well as a “mother pay gap” over and above the gender pay gap, in which mothers were further penalized.  Also, women still shouldered most of the responsibility for unpaid care work.  It was time to reframe the debate, he said, to move from innovation to action and from action to lasting results.

YAMINA DJACTA, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), said that 20 years had passed since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration, which remained the definitive expression of the collective support for gender equality and the empowerment of women worldwide.  It was the fundamental framework for ensuring and promoting the rights of women and girls.  With rapid urbanization, the world had entered an era in which cities, one of the most innovative human constructs, now played a dominant role in defining human destiny.  In the future, cities would not only represent a site of challenges, but also a site of opportunities and a possible sustainable gender-equal future.  All were invited to take part in the UN-HABITAT III Conference to work towards creating gender inclusive cities that would benefit all.

The representative of Action Aid said her group was working to advance women’s rights, to hold States accountable to the Beijing Platform for Action.  Disappointed that civil society groups were excluded from aspects of negotiations, she said the methods of work must enhance their role in the process.  Standing in solidarity with feminists and women’s rights organizations in saying “nothing about us without us”, she emphasized women did most of unpaid work.  In that regard, Action Aid’s latest research showed that women’s income could increase by $17 trillion globally if their access to paid work was equal to that of men and that the sum would be even higher if a living wage was applied.  The violation of women’s rights was a direct consequence of unequal power structures and economic policies that favoured the privatization of public services and aggressive tax avoidance by wealthy multinational corporations.  United Nations Member States needed to support the goal to reduce inequality within and among countries, she said.

The representative of Amnesty International, citing the many issues faced by women and girls, such as sexual violence, child marriage and genital mutilation, reiterated the call for the Beijing commitments to be turned into reality.  The international community must empower women to participate in decision-making and to challenge the existing power relations and stereotyped gender roles, she said.  It should also increase efforts to protect women from gender-based violence, while bringing perpetrators to justice and providing services and reparation to survivors.  Noting the importance of implementing the women, peace and security agenda, she said women’s full and effective participation in peace processes must be ensured to break the cycles of violence and discrimination.  States must refrain from invoking any “custom, tradition or religious consideration” to avoid their human rights obligations.  Women should be enabled to make free and informed decisions about their sexuality and reproductive lives.  Also, women’s human rights defenders must work in an environment conducive to carrying out their work free from harassment, intimidation and violence.

The representative of the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women said despite progress in the attainment of human rights, today over 900 million people still lived in poverty, affecting women and girls disproportionately and limiting their access to resources, including sexual and reproductive health and education.  Maternal mortality and morbidity continued to be high, due to factors such as abortion-related injuries, restrictive abortion policies and a lack of access to contraceptive services.  Child, early and forced marriages also continued to prevent the rights of girls to bodily integrity, denying them choices and rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.  Expressing concern over the increasing incidence of violence, she said that, while laws and policies on rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment needed improvement, effective implementation of laws was also important, especially as it concerned marginalized communities.

The representative of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership/Post-2015 Women’s Coalition was concerned that, 20 years after Beijing, its agenda remained unfilled.  Instead, women’s equality was being pushed out of the post-2015 development agenda, while women’s poverty was increasing.  All women’s rights must be recognized in that process.  Women’s and girls’ human rights must be realized progressively without regression, she said, calling for a world free of gender inequality and demanding that States pay attention to how the inequalities between countries affected women and girls.  Women and girls must have full access to sexual health and education.  Women must also be able to hold land and must be fully included in all decision-making processes.  To advance, she called for reform of the institutions that respected profit over people, for people-centred development models and for all stakeholders to comply with humanitarian law, including by regulating arms through international mechanisms, at minimum through the arms trade treaty.

The representative of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era said that, 20 years after the Beijing Conference, too many Pacific women suffered from gender-based violence.  Her region also had some of the lowest rates of political participation by women.  Women needed representation in all ministries, across countries and international groups.  “Nothing can be decided about us without us,” she stressed, asking Pacific Governments that had not done so to ratify the Convention.  A gender-just world was not possible without social, ecological and sustainable development, she added.

The representative of the European Women’s Lobby said three words were at the core of transformation:  commit, accelerate and invest.  Elaborating on those themes, she said commitments must be made and honoured with regard to the Platform for Action and other instruments for gender equality and their implementation accelerated.  Moving forward, investments must be made in women’s and girls’ rights and organizations.  Women’s organizations and experts must be included equally in the sustainable developing agenda and all forward-looking planning.  Investing in women’s rights was at the core, she said, emphasizing that to accomplish gains, political courage and action were needed.

The representative of Fundación Para Estudio Investigación de la Mujer said that women’s and feminist organizations had supported Governments in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action’s commitments, yet those efforts were not reflected in the Declaration.  The sustainable development goals should incorporate all needs and demands of women and girls, including the right to legal and safe abortions, and to education.  It was also necessary to guarantee a democratic and transparent method to build consensus, with the participation of Governments and non-governmental organizations, she said, urging all research methods to ensure the participation of civil society.  The women and girls of the world were looking on, she said, and they could not wait another 20 years.

The representative of HelpAge International said older women were specifically mentioned in the Beijing Platform for Action, yet gaps existed in those assessments, including the complete omission of widows and widowhood.  Her group had conducted a review of 131 Member States’ national reports to explore the extent to which that had been done.  Despite a growing body of evidence, the challenges older women faced were almost entirely absent from the national 20-year reviews.  The failure to address gender inequality across a women’s life cycle reflected deeply rooted and often unrecognized harmful ageist norms.  The accumulation of gender-based discrimination over a lifetime, combined with the additional discrimination against older persons, had a devastating effect.  As such, the post-2015 agenda must include women of all ages, not just women between ages 18 and 49, she said.

The representative of the International Centre for Research on Women said her presentation had been written by girls living in Egypt, Pakistan and the United States, even though they had never been on the same continent together.  Differences in culture and relative wealth were excuses for oppression.  Even when the law guaranteed their right to go to school, girls were still blocked from education, and when some families could only send one child, it was “usually the boy”.  She said girls were not safe and did not feel safe when merely walking outside could lead to catcalls, stares and threats of assault no matter what they were wearing.  Girls were told to police themselves or to depend on male guardians, she said, asking that if girls could depend on men to protect them, why could they not depend on men not to attack them.  Continuing, she said girls did not have any real advocates, with some families and police calling violence against girls a “family problem”.  Government agencies needed to ensure that girls finished their educations and must respond to women and girls who reported abuse.  The discrimination against women and girls was a crime against humanity, she said, adding that girls needed to be included in decisions that included them.

The representative of the International Federation of University Women said the role of women in the economy was a key priority for the post-2015 agenda.  Their economic empowerment was essential to sustainable development, social change and fiscal growth.  Highlighting that the gender gap was particularly significant in professional leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, she said women’s participation in those industries was crucial to innovation and development.  The Federation recommended, among other things, that all States adopt and enforce legislation on gender discrimination in the workplace, particularly regarding equal pay for equal work, and provide equal access to lifelong, safe, quality education and training up to the highest levels for all girls and women.  Schools, vocational training centres and other learning institutions should include business acumen and financial literacy in the curriculum and girls should be actively encouraged to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics areas and information and communications technology.

The representative of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum said that notwithstanding achievements made since Beijing, the rights of indigenous women continued to be infringed upon.  She called for data that was disaggregated by ethnicity and gender, with budget allocations to design and monitor holistic indicators of indigenous peoples’ well-being and the examination of the distinctive features of violence against women in those communities.  She invited the Commission to consider, in future sessions, the issue of the empowerment of indigenous women.  She further urged that the rights of indigenous peoples be considered in elaborating the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goal 17, and that agencies created from conventions, particularly the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, examined the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples within the frame of their respective mandates.

The representative of the International Pen, noting the increase in education for girls, said that, in many places, such services were not available in their mother tongue.  More education had led to more women writers working in media, which, in turn, had increased their vulnerability to violence.  International Pen had recently featured three women journalists, from Azerbaijan, China and Mexico, who had been imprisoned for their work.  Women who wrote online were more frequently attacked than their male counterparts, she said, adding that those attacks did not generally focus on the content of their articles, but degraded the journalists as women.  She recommended that the post-2015 development goals include increased participation and access of women and girls to quality education and specific provisions for the protection of women human rights defenders and journalists.

The representative of International Planned Parenthood Federation said women and girls were still being denied fundamental rights, including the right to control their bodies, to decide the size and spacing of their families and to decide their futures.  Twenty years after all Member States recognized that reproductive rights were central to women’s and girls’ lives, she was shocked that 225 million women who wanted to control their fertility did not have access to modern contraception.  The change that the international community was waiting for was a matter of life and death, she said, noting that challenges were both severe and clear.  As the world looked forward to the post-2015 development agenda, the global community needed to put women and girls at the centre and to prioritize their access to good health and education, decision-making roles and meaningful employment, and lives free of violence.

The representative of the International Trade Union Confederation said while more than 70 million women workers were represented in trade unions today and had built a legacy of winning rights and protection in the workplace, the promises of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action remained unfulfilled.  Urging the design of a new global and local economy in which decent work, universal access to social protection, an economic agenda for care and environmental sustainability were the cornerstones, she said bold steps were also needed to increase women’s access to paid employment and decent work while considering their obligations to care for children and aged.  Further, it was also important to establish robust living minimum wage mechanisms and introduce labour law reforms to comply with the core ILO standards and gender equality conventions.

The representative of IPAS said that, in 1995, Governments, in an unprecedented move, committed to consider reviewing laws containing punitive measures against women who had undergone illegal abortions.  Since then, numerous authoritative bodies within the United Nations human rights system, including the Committee to Eliminate Discrimination against Women, had increasingly urged Governments to ensure women’s ability to access safe abortions and post-abortion care.  Criminalizing abortion had negative effects.  However, few concrete changes had been made to the laws or policies that recognized that.  There were still countries, such as El Salvador, where women and health-care providers were put in jail.  The 2015 review provided a critical opportunity for States to full comply with the Platform of Action’s recommendation and to take the steps necessary to review and reform punitive abortion laws.

For information media. Not an official record.