140321.women.equalityOver the past two weeks, Peace Boat US has been greatly involved with the 58th annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held at United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

The CSW is comprised of a global policy-making body exclusively dedicated to gender equality and the advancement of women worldwide.

On Friday, March 7th, Peace Boat US attended the kick-off event, “Equality for Women is Progress for All,” with special guests UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham-Clinton, and more.

As our world nears the end of the Millennium Development Goals, one thing is clear: gender equality is directly connected to economic growth. When women around the world have access to legal identities, job opportunities, and equal pay, not only do our moral compasses feel the impact, but the global economy does as well. Closing gender gaps in the labor market would raise GDP in the United States by 5 percent, in the United Arab Emirates by 12 percent, and in Egypt by 34 percent. The economic benefits of gender equality are particularly high in developing countries as well, where boosting women’s labor force membership and giving women legal rights to own land allows for the opportunity for participation, affirmation, and innovation.

In a concerted effort to address the gender gap, the United Nations is calling upon men of the world to speak up for women’s rights by creating the global campaign “He for She.” By taking a stand against abuse, objectification, and the silencing of the female voice, men all around the world are asked to participate in the elimination of gender inequality. This means bringing up our sons to respect women as equal human beings, as well as examining cultural norms that deliberately exclude and oppress women.

“Overall, let us be blunt, progress has been mixed,” moderator Isha Sesay commented.

140321.women.equality.2jpg“The more data we have the more we find what we knew in our hearts was true all along,” Rodham-Clinton pointed out. “This remains the great unfinished business of the 21st century. No country…including the United States has achieved full participation.”

(UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Former Secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton)

The Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, noted that though women are not a minority, historically they have been oppressed for hundreds of years. But the UN remains hopeful for progress to gain traction in the near future. One of the main objectives of the yearly CSW is to shed light on issues such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and the limitation of reproductive rights in order to create the initiative for pragmatic solutions. The goal is to bring the international community together to give women around the world the agency to make personal choices about who to marry, at what point in life to have children, and what career path they will choose.

“We stand at a crossroad,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “We need to take much bigger and broader steps. The 21st century offers the opportunity for big leaps forward. Not baby steps. We’ve done baby steps. The time is now.”

Find out more about the He for She campaign at http://www.heforshe.org

For more information about the 58th annual CSW visit http://www.unwomen.org/

By Sarah Halford