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NAWO, the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations, CSW59, March 2015

ANR Reading

NAWO’s statement to CSW59, as delivered by Annette Lawson, can be seen below:

Oral Statement – Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women:

Beijing Platform for Action – Critical Area H

Madame President, Excellences, my name is Annette Lawson, Chair of NAWO and also Co-chair of an alliance of around 100 women’s, feminists’ and development organisations whose attention is focused on CSW – called the UK NGO CSW Alliance. I want to focus on mechanisms for hearing and heeding women’s voices (not much point if you hear but take no notice).

In 1970, the UN called on member states to put in place mechanisms for listening to women. The UK responded and established the Women’s National Commission, which eventually grew from 50 selected organisations to open membership (free) of around 500. It was an advisory and independent body to Government but funded with I have to say, a rather small budget, averaging only around half a million dollars per annum for 51% of the population. Nonetheless this was the legitimated and resourced body to bring women from the four nations of the UK together to discuss issues of concern, develop policy and advise government. 

The new government that came to power under David Cameron in 2010 reviewed and rapidly abolished many of these advisory bodies on the grounds of cost-cutting and we women lost our Commission. The result was some considerable fragmentation of the women’s sector but women are creative and together we built this new UK NGO CSW Alliance which has developed an excellent partnership with government. We work together with them in the lead up to, during the negotiations here and afterwards to follow up on the outcomes of this CSW annual conference.

However, in the little blue book that is the BPFA and the Outcomes of the 23rd Special Session of the General Assembly (2000), the challenges to bring a gendered perspective across the board into all policies and legislation are set out: “inadequate financial and human resources and a lack of political will and commitment are the main obstacles […] further exacerbated by insufficient understanding of gender equality and gender mainstreaming […] competing government priorities […] lack of disaggregated data […] and insufficient links to civil society.1

Now, more than ever, as we work not only at CSW in reviewing the implementation of the BPFA, but also seek in the post-2015 agenda to see a stand-alone gender equality goal with gender mainstreamed through all other goals, the methodology – i.e. the mechanisms, the how has to be central to our work. How are we going to make the new vision be actualized, effective; be implemented? How are we going to achieve gender equality by 2030?

One sensible saying of feminism is: ‘do not reinvent the wheel’. So we know what we need:

(1) Political will against competing priorities: My government put its competing priority of the economy and cutting expenditure ahead of gender equality.

(2) Gender mainstreaming – which is no tick-box activity but requires a twin-track so that specialized services, ‘temporary special measures’, as CEDAW calls them, to build level playing fields, have to be resourced, with legal force. Gender budgeting and all the features of a truly gendered perspective are needed across government.

(3) The disaggregated data also has to be collected, analysed and employed for policy-making. We argue for marital status to be among the essential categories that are collected thus telling us about early and forced marriage, widowhood and so forth – aspects of the lives of girls and women that are stigmatizing and unequal.

(4) The authors of Beijing knew, and feminists everywhere also know that the process matters. So civil society, especially women’s organisations, have to be fully involved and resourced to participate at all levels.

Moving to the Post-2015 agenda – there are 17 SDG goals so far and 169 targets and a very large number of indicators yet to be agreed. Women have been and need to be kept central to that process too. And that means there must be mechanisms that enable participation.

My 7-year old granddaughter tells her friends, ‘My Granny is trying to build a better world for girls.’ And, turning to her little brother (5), ‘Well, and for boys too’.

We women will help you deliver the post-2015 agenda and keep this CSW annual meeting strong. But you, representatives of Member States of the United Nations, must make the decisions and put in place the institutional mechanisms that are essential.

I urge you today, to make the world a better place for all women of all ages and hence for everyone including the most marginalized – those women about whom we heard in detail in this very room this morning. Women have another saying, ‘Never, never, ever, give up.’ We will not give up now.

Annette Lawson OBE

Chair, NAWO, National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (UK)

Delivered (with some cuts) March 18 2015, UN Conference Room 4

1 P. 201; para H 25 Outcome Document Beijing+5 in Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with the Beijing+5 Political Declaration and Outcome Document; United Nations, NY 2011

Read the report and Summary Document produced by the NAWO Subcommittee for CSW54 (Beijing+15), with a focus on older women’s rights

NAWO Subcommittee Report for CSW54

A summary of Demands from this paper, still relevant now, can be seen below:

‘NAWO wishes to see:

  • At UN level, the appointment of a Special Rapporteur or equivalent high level post on and for Older Women and/or

  • A new Convention on the rights of the Older Person which recognises gender differences.

  • At UN, country and within member state levels: The collection and disaggregation of data on both women and men and for different ages, as well as for ethnicity. Nor is ‘above 65’ enough. There are considerable differences between the needs of active 75 year-olds and women and men in their late 80s ands 90s.

  • Older women are often discriminated against in terms of participation in public and political positions as well as decision-making positions. Age specific public policies could open opportunities for older women to participate fully and effectively in the political, economic and social spheres of their countries.

  • Research shows that poor education is linked to poverty at all ages, including older age, as are a number of other features such as the gender pay gap; low level pay; the care of children and elderly relatives inter alia. Governments need to implement calls for life-long learning and take all necessary steps to pursue policies at country-level to ensure all have decent education and can return at any age without costs that prevent especially already poor women from accessing education.

  • The removal of all barriers that prevent older women from accessing work of their choice, including mandatory or voluntary retirement ages and stereotypes in the work environment. Governments should monitor gender and age pay gaps in the policies aimed at equal remuneration. It is particularly offensive that the UN itself operates an age ban on people over 62, even for consultancy or seconded positions. This has a specifically detrimental effect on women who may specialise in gender equality and who may not have been free to travel or take up such work in earlier life because of caring responsibilities. Furthermore the nature of their work will have prevented many from building decent pension provision.MemberState Governments should require the UN to change this discriminatory employment practice.

  • Good health, economic security, and adequate housing, are important aspects of ageing with dignity. Governments need to ensure access to

    • affordable, appropriate health, mental health and social care services designed to meet the needs of all women including those who are ageing in a foreign country

    • adequate non-contributory pensions on an equal basis with men. Universal non-contributory pensions are a cost effective way to ensuring non-discriminatory social security in old age. Governments should ensure the security of widow survivors’ pensions.

    • Affordable,accessible housing to enable older people and older women to age successfully ‘in place’ ‘