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Where Were the Men?

April 1, 2015|by Caroline Gimmillaro, UNA Women
Sheryl Samberg argued that women need to “sit at the table” where decisions are made. At the 59th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59), many women sat at the table. In fact, mostly women sat at the table. At some events, only women sat at the table. Most of the officials, representatives of nongovernmental organization, panel speakers and participants were women.  Where were the men? Where were the intersex people?

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and fifty-nine subsequent Commissions on the Status of Women are not just about advancing the welfare of women: they are about advancing the welfare of all people. The realization of equal rights and opportunities for all people, regardless of their sex, will not only advance social equality; it will also advance every single Millennium Development Goal and post 2015 Sustainable Development Goal.

The phrase “women’s rights are not only a women’s issue” was echoed over and over again at CSW59 events focusing on issues ranging from women’s role in peace and security to social norms to domestic violence to girls’ health and education. A number of events focused specifically on “engaging men and boys” for change. These events featured male speakers who discussed organizations like MenEngage, which helps train and mobilize men to become partners in the advancement of equal rights for the sexes. A representative from CARE International’s Young Men Initiative spoke about CARE’s efforts to break sex-based stereotypes and teach young men about women’s rights. United Nations representatives discussed the HeForShe campaign. These initiatives show that policy makers and activists are moving away from the old paradigm of treating women’s rights as a “woman’s issue”. But it is concerning that so few male policy makers and activists attended CSW59, especially since men hold the majority of top policy-making positions. Men need to be partners in ending sex-based discrimination, harmful stereotypes and sex-based norms.

It is also concerning that there was a lack of intersex representation and discussion at CSW59. Intersex people face discrimination and egregious violations of their human rights. Intersex people cannot be left out of the equality equation. Just as men and intersex people need to help advance policy and action to achieve equal rights and opportunities for women; men and women need to help advance policy and action to achieve equal rights and opportunities for intersex people.

Men, women and intersex people need to sit together at the table to create and improve campaigns, projects and policies aimed to achieve equality of the sexes. Men, women and intersex people also need to get up from the table to enact, enforce, monitor and evaluate these interventions. Equality of the sexes is not just a woman’s issue. Lack of rights and opportunities for women and intersex people hurts everyone and can only be rectified when people of all sexes work together. I hope that at CSW60, the table will more accurately reflect global sex demographics.

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