CSW68 Blog Post

The 2024 theme of 68th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective”, a timely and important issue to discuss. 1 in 10 women, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, and gender expansive individuals (LBTI) globally live in extreme poverty and over 7 times more likely than males to be impoverished. In many parts of the world they face a significant gender pay gap, earning slightly more than 50 per cent of what men earn on average. This economic disparity is further compounded for impoverished women and LBTI individuals who are deprived of essential resources like credit, land, and inheritance. Their work is undervalued, unrewarded, and unrecognized, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and inequality. It is crucial to address these systemic issues and advocate for gender equality in all aspects of society to ensure fair treatment and opportunities for women and LBTI individuals worldwide.

Women and LBTI individuals living in poverty face higher rates of domestic abuse and sexual violence. An argument can be made that poverty itself is an act of violence, causing a multitude of negative mental and physical effects such as lower life expectancy, mental health conditions, and diseases that would have otherwise not manifested if they were to have access to living wages and healthcare.

Online violence (cyberviolence) against women and LBTI individuals is at epidemic proportions, as discussed in the session led by Egypt, Belgium and UNFPA on making all spaces safe for women and girls. Doxxing, stalking, and human trafficking are experienced in higher rates by women and LBTI individuals, with 33% of instances of cyberviolence moving offline to offline. More must be done to prevent this issue, one such tactic discussed was the UN Internet Code of Conduct which aims to arrest the spread of harmful content and disinformation.

Another strategy is creating inclusive, supportive spaces free of violence, however the downside to this is having only a few safe pockets in the vast digital world which may segregate and further marginalize women and LBTI persons, cutting them off from the wider scope of social media and information access creating an echo chamber of hatred in spaces that are not a part of these havens thus worsening the problem. More needs to be done through data collection, accountability for internet platforms that allow this behavior, awareness, and education. There are opportunities to advocate for measures to eradicate this issue through local and national advocacy and connecting with digital platforms to push for enforcement of their terms and services for all users banning hate speech and disinformation. Having bystander toolkits is another approach to build a coalition of users who push back against this digital violence through interventions and reporting user accounts.

The economic gender-based violence session led by Latvia, Sweden, World Bank, and the EU session on engaging men in eliminating violence against women and LBTI persons touched on how gender and poverty intersect and increase rates of intimate partner violence including economic violence and its effects on the economy. There is a loss of productivity from women and LBTI persons from missing work due to experiencing violence which impacts the GDP of all nations but more importantly there is the significant human cost of the loss of rights for women and LBTI persons. Money is often used a a tool of power and control, forcing women and LBTI individuals to remain in abusive and unsafe situations because they have no other viable options. The EU session touched on this-the perpetration of violence by men takes many forms-physical, mental, emotional, financial, and exploitation. Research shows that engaging men in the pursuit of gender equality has a significant positive impact-patriarchal systems rely on the complacency and complicity of men to uphold these systems of power and the disruption of this dynamic by those with more gender privilege lowers abuse and violence on all levels. Community building through engaging leaders and role models in the community serves as a powerful mechanism for shifting social norms surrounding toxic masculinities and gender-based violence. By leveraging the influence and example set by these individuals, we can effectively promote positive behaviors, challenge harmful stereotypes, and foster a culture of respect and equality. This approach not only raises awareness but also inspires others to follow suit, creating a ripple effect that can lead to meaningful change in societal attitudes and behaviors towards gender issues.

There were sessions that explored the impact of conflict settings on women and LBTI persons-these populations are disproportionately affected in terms of casualties, sexual assault as a tool of warfare, and displacement. The effects are even more devastating on persons who have disabilities and children-they are among the most vulnerable of the vulnerable due to the intersection of their age and abilities. Women and LBTI persons are often silenced without the chance to tell their stories their struggles are invisible and overlooked. Having people in leadership who reflect the makeup of these persons is crucial to create real change because of their lived experiences and deep knowledge of what these populations need. Another is to advocate for the protection of women and LBTI individuals through funding the humanitarian sector to scale up responses and enforcing international law to protect hospitals and other safe zones that are targeted in armed conflicts. Humanitarian agencies are chronically underfunded and there are opportunities for engaging donors and governments to prioritize these organizations, especially those headed by women and LBTI individuals.

This was a truly transformative experience that gave attendees the knowledge and tools to take back to their communities and agencies in the public and private sectors to affect real change. I plan on using these new skills by incorporating them in my chapter and collaborate with other chapters to infuse them into working on advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Connecting with elected officials on all levels to prioritize protections and increasing access to financial security for women and LBTI persons is a crucial step towards advocating for gender equality and supporting marginalized communities. Coordinating these actions nationwide, similar to the Leadership Summit, can effectively amplify the impact and encourage funding for the UN as well as initiatives aimed at empowering these populations and strengthening social protections. By engaging in these efforts, we can collectively work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable society for all individuals.