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Launch of the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women report

Discrimination Sex Discrimination

Launch of CSW61 Report Back Report
Parliamentary Group on Population and Development

Thursday 22 June 2017
Event: 11:00am - 12:00pm

Australian Parliament House

The report was launched by Minister for Women Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash before members of civil society, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Office for Women, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Parliamentary Group on Population and Development, including the Hon Ann Sudmalis MP, Senator the Hon Claire Moore and Senator the Hon Scott Ludlam. 



I acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples who are the traditional custodians of the Canberra area and pay respect to the elders, past and present, of all Australia's Indigenous peoples.

I am grateful to the Australian Government for inviting me to be part of their delegation to the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and to work closely with the Minister, Ambassador for Women and Girls Sharman Stone, Ambassador Bird, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Office for Women. I attended meetings that provided me with an opportunity to showcase both what is being done in Australia and also what work still needs to occur for progress to be made.

It was a privilege to work closely with the civil society delegates on the Government delegation.

Women's economic security

It was encouraging to hear discussion of many of the topics raised on women’s economic security during my recent consultations A conversation in gender equality during CSW.

Experiences in Australia were echoed as far away as Kenya where women are building toilets and childcare in markets to support their businesses and as close to home as New Zealand where experiences of intersectionality heighten the pay gap. While the gender pay gap in New Zealand is 17% overall, it is worse for Mauri women at 28% and Pacific women at 35%.

It was helpful to learn from the Nordic countries taking steps to progress women’s representation, pay inequity and paid parental leave.

There were important case studies shared from developing countries on male-dominated industries and entrepreneurship. Elsewhere discussions on the challenges of gender segregation, engagement of men and boys and unpaid work were relevant to my priorities.

Indigenous women's empowerment

It was a privilege to observe the wisdom and leadership of Indigenous women around the world.

Overwhelmingly, these women want to be included in conversations and bring their unique perspectives to the challenges faced by women and girls. They want to be part of designing, evaluating and monitoring of policy and practice.

Like discussions held in Australia there was strong dialogue around recognising the challenges Indigenous women face are intensified because of the intersection of being both a woman and an Indigenous person and solutions for women will not necessarily be the right solutions for indigenous women.

We reached an important milestone by securing a reference to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and new language on Indigenous women’s economic empowerment in the Agreed Conclusions.

Independent participation of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI)

As part of the advocacy of NHRI participation, I supported the very popular side event co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Afghanistan, Australia, Chile, Costa Rica, Germany, Morocco, New Zealand, Qatar and the United Kingdom: The role of NHRIs in enhancing women’s economic participation in the changing world of work.

Australia’s support of independent participation rights for NHRIs at CSW is consistent with Australia’s candidacy to serve on the Human Rights Council for the 2018-20 term.

Ultimately in the Agreed Conclusions we achieved recognition of the contribution of NHRIs in promoting the economic empowerment of women and their full and productive employment and decent work (paragraph 13) and continued consideration of how to enhance participation rights of ‘A Status NHRIs’ at CSW (paragraph 43).

It was wonderful to meet with Dr Sima Samar, the Head of Afghanistan Human Rights Commission and learn of the significant work being done to advance the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. During a subsequent visit to the Middle East with the Australian Defence Force, I had the pleasure of discussing Dr Samar’s work with the First Lady of Afghanistan, Mrs Rula Ghani.

Role of civil society organisation delegates

This year there was a strong contingent of committed and talented NGO representatives attending CSW.

The value of civil society presence at CSW61 cannot be underestimated as they bring authentic voices and grassroots stories to the discussions.

I chaired an Asia Pacific dialogue where Australian NGOs and Government representatives heard directly from Asia Pacific NGOs about some of the challenges they face having their voices heard on important priorities affecting their communities, like climate change and violence against women.

It was disappointing to hear so many women were unable to attend due to visa restrictions and this was regularly acknowledged at events through the use of an empty chair in recognition of voices not heard.

I was pleased to contribute to the Report of the Australian Government Delegation to the 61st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I look forward to using my lessons on gender equality from CSW61 in my ongoing work towards advancing gender equality in Australia.

A copy of the report is available here:

Kate Jenkins, Sex Discrimination Commissioner