Delegates from 35 Commonwealth countries discussed gender equality and strengthening regional and national mechanisms to monitor its progress, at the Commonwealth Gender Plan of Action Monitoring Group (CGPMG) and the Annual Consultation of Commonwealth Heads of National Women’s Machineries (NWMs) meetings.
The Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Foundation, civil society organisations, UN agencies and Commonwealth intergovernmental organisations, convened for the meetings from 25 to 26 February in New York, USA.
Participants focused on moving forward the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2005-2015 (PoA) by discussing key areas of concern for member countries, including social protection – policies and programmes designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability.
Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua, Samoa Minister for Women, Community and Social Development and Chair of the CGPMG, said the need to agree on measureable outcomes and co-ordinated mechanisms using multi-sector approaches for monitoring gender equality is a priority.
Echoing the concerns of smaller nations and burgeoning economies, she also emphasised the need for Commonwealth members to increase information sharing and encourage participation.
Recent statistics indicate that 800 million people are illiterate, of which two-thirds are women. However there is growing political will for gender equality and support for women parliamentarians.
Keynote speaker, Professor Marilyn Waring from Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand, called on members to re-visit existing notions of social protection: “Who is framing social protection? Who is silent? How inclusive are global concepts, definitions and strategies?”
Social protection includes issues related to the rights of child-headed households, orphans, HIV/AIDS widows, and the work of unpaid 24 hour caregivers.
Opportunities for addressing these concerns were explored through examples of a community-based social protection network in Vanuatu and rural public works programmes India, as well as legal victories for caregivers in Canada and New Zealand.
Going forward, the Commonwealth Secretariat, working with the CGPMG, will outline plans to strengthen national women’s machineries to monitor gender equality progress.
The need for Commonwealth member countries to co-ordinate and harmonise their regional efforts is also at the forefront of this year’s PoA agenda.