Commission on the Status of Women 67th Session March 16 – 17, 2023

The 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 67) officially ended at 6.00 am approx on March 18th, 2023 with a successfully negotiated CSW67 Agreed Conclusion. (Advanced Unedited Version) When edited int will also be in French and Spanish. These agreed conclusions are a lengthy document (32 pages) but a significant document with regard to the theme of the session: ‘Innovation and Technological Change and Education in the Digital Era for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.’

Negotiations were long, tedious, and challenging but the outcome hails a new moment of hope to harness the possibilities held in technological advancement to usher in gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the digital era. You can gain some insight into the dynamics of the Commission in the UN TV Webcast of the 17th Session on the Commission. Engaging within the multilateral system is indeed challenging and demands endless listening and patience with the process. This CSW 67 demonstrated multilateralism at its best. It necessitates a constructive spirit throughout and always demands cooperation and collaboration in the interest of the common good. Some groups had to let go of issues important to them in furthering women’s human rights in the interest of the whole. As I watched through a glass window for a few hours I could not help but identify a spirit of patience and commitment to the process without knowing what the issue or the exchange of views under negotiations. But there appeared to be decorum and respect toward each other and the body in the process.

Reflections on the agreed consultations are slow to appear. UN Women published a press release on March 18th hailing the document as a game changer. UN Women Executive Director, Sima Bahous, said: “This year’s Agreed Conclusions are game-changing and bring forward our vision of a more equal and connected world for women and girls in all their diversity. It is our job, as we leave here today, to translate them into reality. The ultimate success of these Agreed Conclusions lies beyond their finalization today, in how we will collectively take them forward. They bring us a vision of a more equal world. Let us translate them into reality for all women and girls.”

APNews had a publication on March 18th also highlighting that ‘the “agreed conclusions” document adopted Saturday by the 45-member commission calling for equal quality education for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, information and communications technology, and digital literacy so they can thrive in the rapidly changing world.’ This strongly supports the girls’ agenda.

The agreed conclusion ‘reaffirms the 1995 Beijing platform adopted by 189 countries which said for the first time in a U.N. document, that women’s human rights include the right to control and decide “on matters relating to their sexuality, including their sexual and reproductive health, free of discrimination, coercion, and violence.” ‘ Despite the existence of and commitment to the 1995 Beijing Platform – the struggle to uphold women’s rights continues today such that the Secretary-General speaks of ‘pushing back the pushback.’ See Secretary-General’s remarks to the Women’s Civil Society Town Hall [as delivered] on March 13. Some lines that impacted me. Secretary-General said ‘many of the challenges we face today – from conflicts to climate chaos and the cost-of-living crisis – are the result of what is a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture, taking the key decisions that guide our world. … Gender-based violence online has increased exponentially. Organized campaigns target women politicians, journalists, and activists – a direct attack on women’s representation and on democracy itself.’ the Secretary-General also said ‘In the face of this patriarchal pushback, we must push forward – not just for women and girls, but for all communities and societies.’

I was alarmed and sad hearing one woman leader after another, from president to member of parliament alike witnessing to the harassment that they personally experienced while engaging in political leadership. Ireland and The Irish Consortium on Gender-Based Violence (ICGBV) hosted an event entitled GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: RISKS, OPPORTUNITIES, CHALLENGES on 06 Mar, 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM. Here is a clip of one woman parliamentarian speaking of the violence she experienced.

Global Sisters Report published their article on Friday, March 24. This is from the perspective of Catholic Sisters and their experience of CSW 67 including Winifred Doherty. The reporter Chris Herlinger quoted from the Good Shepherd Statement to the Commission “Technology has opened the door to perpetrators through a screen that exposes women, girls, and children to all types of harm, even within the home. Technology has facilitated the rapid global expansion of human trafficking as a criminal industry, which has increased the demand for women and girls as objects of exploitation, prostitution, and violence.”

Public Services International headed their piece ‘Mission Accomplished! The Struggle Continues.’ Rosa Pavanelli, Public Services International, General Secretary stated, “The Agreed Conclusions this year reflect tensions around the multilateral system. ‘We witnessed rhetoric based on the respect for universal human rights and international human rights’ law that was difficult to translate into concrete dimensions of the role the State as its fundamental actor and guarantor, while the preponderance of the private sector and the multi-stakeholder approach gained traction as dominant actors in a world at the hands of market and capital forces. There is no doubt that the digital era and the advances of science and technology challenge us to continue fighting for the commons and public goods as the only backers of equality for humanity as opposed to their for-profit use and corporate capture.’ This captures the already some of the content in our written statement to CSW 67. French and Spanish

Another interesting take on CSW 67 is from Pat Black, a member of Soroptimist International from Scotland whom I had to pleasure to meet again this year at CSW 67 in the long hours of waiting for the Agreed Conclusions. I was not as dedicated at Pat – I went home at 11.30 p.m. Read

This CSW 67 was characterized by over two hundred side events and seven hundred parallel events. We at the GSIJP Office were very proud of our parallel event entitled ‘Girls and Women Impact the Digital Revolution’ where girls from Latin America, Africa, and Asia Pacific addressed the issue with knowledge and determination. We heard of diverse experiences in accessing digital platforms both for educational and social use. We also heard about experiences of online abuse and the efforts to become empowered and create safe spaces for all girls users. Girls were strong in advocating for access, saying it is a human rights issue. Congratulations to all panelists – ‘Girls’ Rights are Human Rights.’