CSW 57: Catch 22 – Accelerating MDGs or building post 2015 framework

Date: July 30, 2013
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New York, 15 March: With the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) coming to a close today there is an emerging view that government and civil society should double their efforts to achieve the existing MDGs before 2015 amid the negotiations on a new framework.

Zorah Moosa from Gender and Development Network reiterated the need to achieve the current MDGs: “We are in a catch 22. Even though there are red flags we are raising we also need to move full steam ahead on the new framework and processes that are going on”.

Moosa was speaking at a CSW parallel event called Gender and post 2015 framework: Multi-stakeholder dialogue on key gender issues relating to CSW’s emerging issue 2014. The Switzerland Permanent Mission to the United Nations and the South African government hosted the event.

Under the banner of the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance, Southern African NGOs seem to be a step ahead in measuring and capturing this change. Working with local government and media institutions, the Alliance will also be hosting the 2013 inaugural SADC Gender Protocol Summit in the build up to 2015. With the theme, “SADC Protocol @Work – 2015 Yes we must!” stakeholders will showcase their good practice and share strategies for achieving gender equality in the post-2015 development agenda.

The MDGs and the SADC Gender and Development Protocol both have targets to be achieved by 2015. This is a momentous year to take stock and turn up the pressure for implementation and accountability of the Protocol and MDGs.

With regard to the new framework, the emerging consensus is that a strong stand-alone gender equality goal is required but gender should also be mainstreamed in all the other goals by putting in place gender sensitive targets and indicators as well as sex- disaggregated data.

The language in the new framework must also adequately articulate any emerging issues such as sexual orientation as it relates to sexual reproductive rights.

All this would improve Millennium Development Goal 3, which is the current standalone gender goal; the indicators are considered weak and gender is not mainstreamed in all the other goals.

A Gender Links publication, Finding Gender in the MDGs, outlines a few areas where the MDGs fall short in addressing gender:
Firstly, the target of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education, on its own will not ensure gender equality and empowering women. Education is a key factor to empowering women, but it is not the only factor.

Secondly, besides goal eight, (women’s empowerment and gender equality) the only gender-specific indicators relate to maternal mortality. Gender dimensions of the other goals are not mentioned.

Thirdly, the MDGs do not have a rights-based approach to development, thus there are fears that women’s gender concerns are being sacrificed.

Furthermore, specific targets and indicators on gender violence – which has reached epidemic proportions in Southern Africa and which is fuelling the spread of HIV/AIDS- are absent. There is also no discussion on the need to guarantee women’s sexual and reproductive health rights in the context of reducing maternal mortality.

Despite their pitfalls, one of the panellists insisted that the MDGs in their present form should not be underestimated, “Without it gender equality may have fallen off the donor agenda”, she said. There is some truth to this since this is a global framework, has led to progress.

For example, South Africa’s Minister of Women’s Affairs, Children and People with Disability, Lulu Xingwana reflected on the some successes as well as challenges South Africa and the Global South continue to face which hinder the achievement of the MDGs.

Xingwana emphasised that MDGs carried forward into the post 2015 development framework must address the issue of women’s vulnerability and violence against women and girls. The empowerment of women and girls is fundamentally dependent on their safety and protection. There is an urgent need to develop rural infrastructure and to eliminate unequal access to resources, land, financial services as well as employment opportunities.

Malian gender activist Mama Koite Doumbia echoed this as she lamented that women from poor countries have a double tragedy. “In 2000 the gap between rich and poor was huge, at two years to 2015 the gap is still wide.”

In her concluding remarks Xingwana said, “The challenges facing the developing world and sub-Saharan Africa in particular will require a renewed commitment from those who have made financial commitments to Africa for achievement of the MDGs not to renege on their commitments over the next two years.”

Xingwana aptly summed up the importance of the next two years: “We support the Secretary General’s panel to focus on the acceleration of the implementation of the MDGs and would appeal that much focus be on assisting Africa to meet all its targets. However, we wish to caution against prejudging the review outcome and prematurely setting in processes that will undermine the ideas of the MDGs”.

This is not to say the debate on the future of the MDGs should be put on ice. Rather, issues of violence against women, developing an environment that gives women a voice and access to land and labour need special attention in the new framework.

Saraswathi Menon, UN Women Policy Director emphasised that whatever is decided on should be founded on a rights based approach, enabling women to make choices about their lives including the ability be involved in decision-making. For example, there are no targets and indicators on violence against women and women’s rights to security and protection.

Loveness Jambaya Nyakujarah is the Alliance and Partnerships ManagerTat Gender Links. This article is part of GL’s special coverage of CSW 57. For more on the SADC Gender Protocol Summit go to: https://www.genderlinks.org.za/page/gender-summit


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