Why is Ipas attending the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women?

Cecilia Espinoza, Ipas youth senior advisor, explains why the right to safe abortion—including for young women—is vital to achieving the new global development goals

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Cecilia Espinoza at CSW

From March 14-24, world leaders and advocates for women’s rights from around the world will be in New York attending the United Nations’ sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, focusing this year on women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development.

Representatives of Ipas—including Youth Senior Advisor Cecilia Espinoza—will be there contributing to various events and conversations. Here Espinoza explains in simple terms the importance of this event for the advancement of women’s health and rights.

Why is the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) an important event?

Cecilia: For women’s health and rights, CSW is a crucial opportunity each year for world leaders, policymakers and advocates on a variety of women’s issues to come together, learn from each other, assess our global progress toward agreed-upon goals, and arrive at new resolutions for moving forward. In the 60 years that CSW has convened annually, we’ve seen incredible progress on governments’ attitudes toward women’s rights and their commitment to addressing issues like sexual and gender-based violence, maternal mortality, and lack of access to education and political participation.

What will CSW focus on this year?

Cecilia: This year’s focus at will be on how we can advance the United Nations’ newly established Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by empowering women. Throughout last year, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development engaged leaders, advocates and citizens around the world to create an ambitious new development agenda—The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda has 17 goals—such as to eradicate poverty, take urgent action on climate change, and promote health and gender equality. These goals will drive governments’ development plans and priorities for the next 15 years, and will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were the roadmap for global development during the previous 15 years.

So, everyone attending CSW this year will be discussing ways governments can achieve the SDGs by empowering women and thereby enabling them to participate in and lead efforts to tackle issues as varied as poverty, gender-based violence, health, education, clean water, economic growth, peace and justice, and gender equality.

What does Ipas hope to gain by participating in CSW this year?

Cecilia: Our intention every year is to ensure that women’s sexual and reproductive rights—especially the right to safe, legal abortion—are included in the CSW discussions and negotiations, wherever and whenever possible. Because there’s so much stigma that often surrounds sexual and reproductive health topics, it’s easy for these issues to get brushed under the rug or left out of outcome documents. To avoid conflict or ensure consensus on a given statement or document, negotiators may choose to omit language about women’s and adolescents’ sexual and reproductive rights, including safe abortion, so we work with our partners to raise awareness of the vital importance of these rights and push for outcome documents that recognize them.

With the focus on the SDGs this year, we’ll be working to show that the goals related to health and gender equality are not fully achievable unless governments ensure all women—including adolescent girls and young women—have access to effective contraception and safe, legal abortion care. Our job is to ensure these topics are part of the conversation. We also want to ensure that young people’s rights are recognized and that their voices are heard.

How exactly will Ipas do this?

Cecilia: We’ll be talking about our issue in various ways. The country director of Ipas’s program in Malawi will be attending CSW as part of his country’s official delegation, so he’ll be advising this delegation on women’s reproductive health and rights, including abortion rights, during negotiations. Our Senior Policy Advisor Gillian Kane will be a panelist at an event on the importance of the 2030 Agenda for defending human rights, including women’s rights to bodily autonomy and to access safe abortion care.

We’re also co-hosting two side events intended to raise awareness of our issues. Alongside the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Center for Reproductive Rights we’ll host a side event on strategies for removing unjust abortion laws in Africa and Latin America. And together with Advocates for Youth we’ll host a side event on why advancing young people’s access to safe and legal abortion must be a priority to achieve the new SDGs on health and gender equality. Some of our great young partners will be speaking at this event.

In addition, we’ve created a helpful factsheet for policymakers and advocates. It includes recommendations on how to advance the right to safe abortion for adolescent girls and young women. For advocates, it’s all about holding their governments accountable to the SDGs to which they’ve committed.