Posted March 13, 2015
More than 100 Anglicans, including several from Niagara, are participating in the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), according to the Episcopal News Service. Canon Sharyn Hall and Ms. Susan Bird are part of the Canadian Anglican delegation. Bishop Michael Bird is also in New York and participating in several associated events.
A march on International Women's Day helped kick off the UNCSW session and highlighted the Commission’s ongoing quest for gender equality. After the march, Susan Bird (pictured left) observed that she was "blessed to walk shoulder to shoulder with women from around the world" to press for the rights of women and girls.
During the Commission’s annual two-week session, representatives of U.N. Member States and affiliated entities, along with a variety of non-governmental organizations assemble at the U.N. headquarters. In opening remarks to the Commission, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called 2015 “a vital year for advancing the cause of gender equality.”
The focus of the session is the 20th anniversary of the 4th World Conference on Women convened by the UN in Beijing in 1995 and the Platform for Action adopted at that Conference. The Platform for Action identified 12 critical areas of concern regarding women's rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women. According to Canon Sharyn Hall, "it affirmed that women's rights are human rights and they apply to women everywhere. The Beijing Platform for Action built coalitions among civil society, governments and international organizations, but was not legally enforceable as a Treaty."
The Platform's impact since its adoption twenty years ago appears to be mixed, with progress in certain areas but serious disappointments in others. Again and again presentations to the Commission noted that the transformation of stereotypes and traditional roles is essential to create new paths to gender equality. In sustainable development, women are often at the bottom of the ladder in work of low pay and the rate of improvement is so slow that it will take 80 years to achieve equality. Canon Hall observed that "the greatest disappointment is the high level of violence against women and girls worldwide. Although laws condemning violence against women and girls have been created in many countries, the implementation of these laws lags far behind."
Modern slavery and human trafficking are important issues being addressed by the Commission. Reports indicate that about 70% of the people trafficked are women and girls, the issue reflects many of the concerns being addressed for the rights of women around the world. Several groups and organizations are working to combat the problem, but slavery and human trafficking continue to increase. Yet renewed commitment to this issue has offered hope to the global community. In 2012, a group of faith leaders (including the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of Anglicans) came together to form the Global Freedom Network with the goal of eradicating modern slavery and human trafficking by 2020.
The outcomes and recommendations of each session are forwarded to the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council for follow-up action. More information related to the Anglican Communion's work to be a prophetic voice for women throughout the world can be found on the webpage of the International Anglican Women's Network.