It is to no one’s surprise that our world faces gender inequality. Women and girls suffer greater injustices than men and responding to this with action and hope is a focus of the United Nations and the Vincentian Family.
As you explore the significance of this injustice, it can make your head spin and your heart hurt. For example:
- 1 in 5 women and girls aged 15-49, reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period
- Globally, over 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday
- The likelihood of exclusion from education is most problematic among young women in sub-Saharan Africa, where 49.8 percent of the female youth population had either no or limited education
- Globally, youth entrepreneurship is still most common among older male youth, with self-employment being least likely among younger women
You can read more statistics provided by UN Women here.
New to this role as NGO Representative for the Sisters of Charity Federation at the United Nations, one of my inspirations during my discernment and acceptance of this position was to respond to the injustices facing women and girls.
As I was praying about this new responsibility, my wife, Suzie said to me, “you have given so much to our girls as their father, but what about all those other girls who need someone to care and to advocate on their behalf.”
One significant effort that we are all invited to respond to with attention, prayers, and advocacy occurs this March-the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
The CSW is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) dedicated exclusively to agendas on gender equality and the advancement of women. (For visual learners, a Snapshot Infographic of CSW can be found here: https://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw-snapshot )
This year, the sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) discusses the Priority theme of “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”
The 2023 Review theme is “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.”
As parallel events, there is the NGO CSW Forum and the UN CSW. From March 6th to the 17th, the UN Headquarters and its related virtual side events are the focus of significant conversations both at the UN level as well as in civil society.
So, what happens at the end of next month when #CSW67 concludes? Fortunately, there happens to be a 5-year effort to accelerate Gender Equality going on from 2021-2026 – it’s called Generation Equality (and you can check it out here: https://forum.generationequality.org/). Generation Equality leaders and allies work together and aggressively to ensure accountability for commitments already made, secure transformative new commitments and enlarge and energize global cross-sector movements for equality.
In our Vincentian charism and 400-year story, advocating and caring for women and girls has been an essential aspect of our response to the Gospel. As we pray this Lenten season, let us dedicate time to learn, to grow, to be inspired, and how to respond to be a part of the solution.
James R. Walters, Ed.D.
NGO Representative at the United Nations
Sisters of Charity Federation