Reflecting on the 68th Commission on the Status of Women: Connections to GAIN’s work on Gender and Social Protection

Reflecting on the 68th Commission on the Status of Women: Connections to GAIN’s work on Gender and Social Protection

Global, 1 May 2024 - 

In March, GAIN attended the 68th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), an annual event held at the UN Headquarters in New York that brings together stakeholders from all over the world to discuss the state of gender equality and women’s empowerment, resulting in Agreed Conclusions. The priority theme this year was “accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.” The Commission also reviewed previous agreements about social protection.

Globally, we are not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, nor are we on track to achieve gender equality in many SDG indicators (1). Throughout the Commission, it was frequently reiterated that “progress towards ending poverty needs to be 26 times faster to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”(2)  The CSW made clear that stark deficiencies in resource mobilisation are constraining progress. This is evidenced by a funding gap of $360 billion dollars per year to achieve gender equality in the eight key sex-disaggregated SDG, which include putting an end to poverty and hunger globally (3). 

Addressing these challenges will require significant multilateral efforts. As acknowledged in the CSW’s agreed conclusions (pg 24), such efforts should be led by local women and their communities, ensuring that actions are culturally relevant and consistent with their aspirations.

Specific linkages between gender, food systems, and nutrition

The agreed CSW conclusions reaffirm the right to food and recognise that “women and girls are disproportionately affected by hunger, food insecurity and poverty” (pg 3). Moreover, the conclusions call for “agriculture, food security and nutrition-related programmes and policies [to] take into consideration the specific needs of all women” (pg 16). Government officials, NGO representatives, and subject matter experts highlighted that policies are key tools to address gender inequality in all its forms. Many speakers brought attention to the importance of going beyond what is often presented as “gender neutral” policies, which may not be explicitly discriminatory, but nonetheless, do not account for the specific gender barriers and challenges experienced by women.

These discussions resonated with the policy work that GAIN does, notably under the Nourishing Food Pathways (NFP) programme. In NFP, GAIN is working to support national governments to develop and strengthen food system policies emerging from the UN Food Systems Summit and is paying particular attention to making these policies gender-responsive.

GAIN’s gender work and adoption of a gender cross-cutting theme also reflects the importance of dedicating attention and resources to gender equality to strengthen food systems and combat malnutrition. 

Highlights from the Commission’s deliberations on social protection

At this year’s CSW, the Commission reviewed previously agreed conclusions on social protection, access to public services, and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The deliberations yielded the following take-away messages, among many others:

  • Investments in women’s leadership are critical for leveraging social protection as a tool to empower women and girls,
  • There is a conspicuous gap between ambition and fiscal capacity in social protection, 
  •  Inter-ministerial coordination at the country-level is essential for effective administration of social protection benefits and services,
  • There is a need to generate more rigorous evidence and to use data more effectively to advance gender equality,
  • There is a persistent “dream gap” faced by women and girls in many contexts, where women and girls lack examples of female scientists, engineers, etc. This can constrain girls’ ambitions and, potentially, serve to perpetuate systematic gender gaps in income, education, and opportunities. 

While there was only limited mention of nutrition and food systems in the Commission’s deliberations on social protection, there were aspects of the discussion that resonated strongly with the work of GAIN’s Social Protection Programme. For example, there were several mentions of school feeding initiatives, a nutrition-sensitive social protection mechanism that GAIN works on in several countries—and their importance as part of a constellation of social protection benefits.

Advancing the CSW agenda at GAIN and beyond

The agreed conclusions of the 68th CSW were made available online following the event, providing an overview of the Commission’s outcomes and charting a path forward for addressing gender inequality. 

The CSW’s agreed conclusions serve as a useful articulation of core priority areas and urgent issues regarding gender equality. These conclusions reflect the global agenda that the Commission and numerous country governments will hold themselves accountable to as they work toward achieving the SDGs and other important milestones. GAIN will make efforts to internalise and align with these conclusions, and to provide adequate support to governments as they work to improve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.