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BLOG: SDDirect reports from the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York

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By Sally Baden, Wednesday 15 March 2017

This week, I am in wintry New York for the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) -  the largest annual gathering of the international women’s movement at the UN –focused on the theme of “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work”.  Also here this week is Eleanor Nwadinobi, our Gender Advisor on the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation programme (NSRP), and possibly one of the week’s most popular speakers as she is lined up to appear on no less than four panels – alongside her duties as civil society representative on the Nigerian government delegation.   Oh … and about 4000 other women delegates and civil society representatives from all over the world – all charging purposefully around a small area of midtown Manhattan – and about half of them it seems, staying in my hotel!

This morning, Eleanor spoke on a Government of Nigeria panel on Women Peace and Security, about her experience with NSRP, setting up networks of women to enable their active engagement in conflict resolution and peace building dialogues and processes.  She is pictured above with the Nigerian Senator and Minister of Women’s Affairs and Social Development, launching the updated National Action Plan on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325, which NSRP has supported.  

Sally Baden and Eleanor Nwadinobi

Sadly, a key event of the week –  the formal launch for the second report of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel (HLP) on Women’s Economic Empowerment – was cancelled, along with most other events yesterday, due to a snowstorm  which closed the UN headquarters in New York.  Instead, the report, entitled ‘Taking Action for Transformational Changes on Women’s Economic Empowerment‘ , was presented to the recently appointed UNSG, António Guterres, in a closed session by the Panel’s Co-Chairs – IKEA Switzerland CEO Simone Scarpaleggia and Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera. 

Like the Panel’s first report launched last September, this second report is structured around seven key drivers of women’s economic empowerment.  Over several months, working groups chaired by representatives of the HLP have deliberated and identified 3-4 key recommendations as priority actions to promote women’s economic empowerment, under each of these drivers.  By the end of April, they will also produce ‘Toolkits’ - practical guidance and resources on how to implement these recommendations. 

Since early 2017, the Women’s Economic Empowerment team at SDDirect has been liaising with UN HLP working groups to share insights, lessons and examples from the DFID Infrastructure and Cities for Economic Development (ICED) facility - on how gender-responsive infrastructure investment can reduce the burden of unpaid care work; increase productivity and quality of care; free up women’s time for economic activities; and enable women to have choices over how to balance unpaid care work, productive activities and leisure time.

Alongside the official deliberations at CSW, there are hundreds of side events, sponsored by governments, UN bodies and other organisations. It’s agonising to have to choose between them! On Monday, I attended a panel presentation on Grassroots women’s participation in sustainable development - from the MDGs to the SDGs - organized by US-based NGO Women Thrive - as well as the launch of the Gates Foundation conceptual model on Women and Girl’s Empowerment.  Meanwhile, Eleanor – having fulfilled her official duties - spoke on a Widow’s Rights International Panel: “Economic Empowerment for Widows and Female Headed Households: Lessons Learnt From the MDGs”.

In between rushing from one session to another, there are lots of opportunities to meet and compare notes with women (and a few men!) practitioners, activists, researchers and policy makers and chew over the ideas, the events  - and of course the unpredictable weather!   A busy and stimulating couple of days, so far, despite the snow…


Snowstorm in New York