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CSW68 and Beyond: Navigating the Road to Gender Equality

Apr 09, 2024

The 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) convened in New York throughout March 2024. As the foremost annual assembly dedicated to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, it drew participation from all 193 UN Member States alongside numerous stakeholders. Stephanie Tholand, serving as Population Media Center’s (PMC) representative at CSW, offers insights into the event and the ongoing progress within the gender equality movement. As PMC’s Director of New Business Development focused on Strategic Expansion, Stephanie spearheads initiatives aimed at enhancing and diversifying PMC’s worldwide engagement in advancing gender equality.

After nearly 80 years of concerted global organizing, advocacy, and resilience, significant strides have been made in advancing gender equality, reshaping the world for countless women. However, CSW’s atmosphere isn’t one of reveling in accomplishments; instead, it serves as a platform for highlighting enduring oppressions and injustices, maintaining pressure for change. Despite progress, societies worldwide continue to impose barriers on women and girls in various forms. 

Since its inception in 1947, CSW has persistently posed straightforward questions and called for essential reforms – yet the pace of change in response can feel glacial to many.  Attendees expressed their frustration with the significant backsliding on women’s reproductive rights and progressive protections currently peppering the globe, which also complicated CSW68 negotiations. “The patriarchy is far from vanquished,” declared U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, noting its resurgence and the ongoing struggle for equality. “It is regaining ground.”  

How can we attain gender equality?

Simply asserting a human rights imperative for change has proven effective only to a limited extent. While directly challenging the patriarchal system occasionally yields victories, shifts in political power can swiftly reverse progress. In recent years, activists have increasingly turned to amassing gender data as a compelling tool for driving change through empirical evidence. 

Moreover, numerous reports have emphasized the business case and economic benefits of investing in women’s empowerment. This emphasis was reflected in the theme of CSW68 – unlocking the global economic potential of women, addressing poverty, and integrating gender perspectives into institutional strengthening and financing. 

Calls for increased funding and investment resounded throughout the event, supported by robust evidence. However, all of these data and arguments often fail to secure adequate funding for empowering women and shaking up established ways of working. Presently, many key decision-makers and policymakers harbor deep-seated gender biases and stereotypes, underscoring the urgent need to challenge minds and transform decision-making processes for genuine systemic change to occur.

Our Future Depends On Hers

PMC’s award-winning TV and radio series, broadcast in the US and 50+ countries, focus on improving the rights of women and girls, especially reproductive autonomy, gender equity, and self-determination. This is the heart of our commitment to helping population growth stop. By realizing the rights of women and girls.

As April marks National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, PMC recognizes the imperative of societal transformation in addressing gender-based violence and a culture of domination. At PMC, we understand that shifting entrenched mindsets necessitates both time and a specialized strategic approach.

To contribute to this vital societal change, PMC remains dedicated to leveraging our influential entertainment media strategy. Our goal is to inspire millions of individuals to recognize the value of women and girls, ensuring they have equal opportunities and a voice. Additionally, we are committed to supporting men and boys in abandoning violence and oppressive standards while uplifting women into positions of influence.

Bolstered by a deep understanding of human behavioral science and the power of storytelling to transform perspectives, PMC’s social and behavior change (SBC) shows challenge over 5,000 years of patriarchal influence to remake our world. Author Angela Saini recently penned, “as daunting as the struggle against patriarchy may feel at times, there is nothing in our nature that says we can’t live differently. A society made by humans can also be remade by humans.”

“As daunting as the struggle against patriarchy may feel at times, there is nothing in our nature that says we can’t live differently. A society made by humans can also be remade by humans.” – Angela Saini

In alignment with National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and in light of CSW68, we are propelled to normalize these sentiments throughout all levels of society, including those in positions of power. As part of our ongoing mission, we prioritize sexual and reproductive health and rights and combat the oppressive practices of child marriage and female genital mutilation.

Stephanie and the New Business Development team is actively exploring partnerships to broaden PMC’s efforts in accelerating women’s financial inclusion, promoting equality within agricultural systems, fostering positive and healthy masculinities, and addressing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women and girls. We invite organizations working in these critical areas to connect with us via partnerships@populationmedia.org. Together, we can drive meaningful progress towards gender equality and empowerment.

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“Population Media Center is a women’s rights organization – we make it our business to challenge harmful social and gender norms in every entertaining program we create. We declare firmly, along with so many untiring advocates, that improving the status of women and girls is a standalone, non-negotiable ethical imperative for human development.” – Stephanie Tholand