“If you are a woman, you are a worker. Period.”
–Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women
61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
March 14, 2017
By Victoria Rodriguez
This year’s 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women is focused on
the economic empowerment of women in ourever-changing and evolving world of work. According to the World Bank, women and girls comprise approximately 40% of the global workforce, yet inequalities in terms of recognition of work and wages is still very prevalent, despite the strides we’ve made towards a more gender inclusive society. The opening of the Session provided a reflection the Beijing Platform for Action and the 23rd Special Session of the General Assembly, the goals we have achieved since, and the goals we must continuously strive for.
Two informative discussions I attended focused on ending hunger and poverty by empowering women farmers in rural communities and the inequalities that exist in the field of care work. First, we discussed the limitations facing rural women including limited access to finances and unstable markets. The World Food Programme has focused on achieving four distinct goals that will assist women farmers to obtain greater economic empowerment: making travel more accessible and less dangerous from farms to markets, reducing food waste, encouraging the growth of sustainable crop varieties, and making nutrition a priority. A major step towards addressing all four goals is allowing women to farm cash crops that are often only grown by men, such as corn. Currently, many women produce crops that do not even make it to the market, but instead, provide sustenance to her family. Not only are women extremely important in the field of agriculture, they are key, comprising nearly 43% of the agricultural labor force. Without women, we will not diminish hunger or poverty.
Aside from the field of agriculture, women carry out the majority of unpaid and domestic work. On average, men participate in about 15 hours of care work per week while women participate in approximately 37.5 hours of care work per week. One intervention that has assisted women in spending less time on domestic work has been the implementation of water sources closer to homes and large community spaces. Women and girls in rural areas spend anywhere from five to twelve hours per day searching for viable sources of water. Not only is this a taxing endeavor, it is also dangerous and puts women and girls at greater risk of violence including sexual assault and rape. We must continually change our society’s view of care work and the role women play in the matter. Providing compensation for care work is one very important step towards recognizing this occupation and interrupting societal norms associated with unpaid work.
While we wait for the Session to resume tomorrow, I have been using this snow day to reflect upon yesterday’s discussions and to prepare for the duration of this jam-packed week!