Themes of the United Nations Status of Women Conference

The opening of the 63rd Commission for the Status of Women, with remarks from UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres. Photo accessed from

Written by Pathana Viravongsa, BCCIC Delegate to CSW 63 

It is hard not to feel overwhelmed by the multitude of events occurring at the UN CSW63. In conjunction with the main UN proceedings, there is a full schedule of back-to-back side events, as well as full days worth of NGO events. In attempts to navigate these adjacent schedules, you may start to notice one recurring commonality; this is the union of sustainable development and gender equality. The importance of achieving SDG 5 (gender equality) is apparent in this year’s themes, which are social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. In the official CSW63 background papers, it is relayed that these themes are often not viewed concurrently despite being the trifecta for achieving gender equality. The idea then precedes that by applying a gender aspect to the provision of social services, the development of sustainable infrastructure and the implementation of social protection systems, the gender gap will be bridged, and women’s capacity will increase and in turn result in long-term fiscal sustainability for all. However, in achieving this reality gender equality is pertinent.

There is surmounting evidence that current social protection systems do not benefit those who engage in informal or part time work, namely women. Considering this, some of the key issues to be addressed are as follows:

  • Access to social services– Due to things such physical distance or conditionalities, women take productive time out of their day trying to access social services such as health care and education. A gender perspective of social protection systems would work to make services more accessible and barrier free and overcome these challenges
  • Duty of care – Due to longer life expectancies, the proportion of pensioners is projected to steadily increase in coming years, with the duty of care most likely falling on women. The same is in the case of child rearing. Social protection systems could prevent this from impacting women’s employment/status with measures such as better incentives for paid paternal leave and better pension plans for women who cannot work full time due to duty of care
  • Climate change – Women encounter greater challenges when it comes to climate change due to gender roles in the household. They are often the primary producers of food, water heating and cooking fuels and as these things get scarce, women will spend more of their time trying to attain them. Women would benefit from social services that take into consideration domestic work.
  • Gender based violence – Violence against women remains a key deterrent of progress for women. Social protection systems would work to provide better access to health and education services for victims and in terms of infrastructure development, work to design safer public spaces
  • Technological advancements – As technological shifts such as automation and digitalisation occur, it is predicted that inequalities will rise making skilled jobs inaccessible. Social services, such as education and the promotion of women in STEM can help to foster inclusive technological infrastructure.

The themes of the CSW63 identify the first steps needed for gender equality to become a reality: the establishment of social protection systems. Where they didn’t before, social protection systems are starting to take into consideration unpaid care and domestic work. It has been recognised that gender responsive spending and adequate public services are integral for ending occupation segregation and gender pay gaps.

Although the idea of gender equality and sustainable development is not a new realisation, the many events and discussions on the agenda for CSW63 indicate that the discourse is moving past rhetoric and into the stage of seeking action to achieve these goals and the general outlook appears to be positive. As I navigate my way toward UN headquarters and through the CSW63, it will be interesting to see the many innovative proposals put forward to address these key issues.

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