unwomen2 youth delegates

Youth attendees of the United Nation’s 60th Commission on the Status of Women annual conference held from March 8-24. (Courtesy Photo)

The status of Black women was the overarching theme of the United Nation’s 60th Commission on the Status of Women held during its annual conference from March 8-24. Perhaps the most distinguished and diverse gathering of international women leaders, the commission unveiled its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which examined how race, gender, and culture intersect in arenas where female leadership is most needed, but also most threatened.

“We know that in order to bring the new agenda to life, we need to get closest to those who are most disadvantaged,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “Governments cannot deliver alone on their strong commitments. Collaboration with civil society and women’s organizations is key. It also means that greater support and protection of civil society is needed to ensure greater political space and capacity for them to implement this agenda, the support of the private sector is also needed.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka announced the first Youth Commission on the Status of Women, a body that allows youth representatives to speak out and engage in the political arena in places where women of color are often thought unable to think or act strategically. “Globally, there are intense hardships, with extensive population displacement, extreme violence against women and girls, and widespread instability in many regions,” Mlambo-Ngcuka told the attendees.

“The extraordinary challenges, such as the current refugee and migration situation, require us to work together to address their root causes in countries of origin as well as in countries of transition and destination. This is a new challenge on which we need to collaborate and find new and sustainable ways of responding.”

This Commission was the largest and most critical intergovernmental forum since the organization’s launch in 2010, with delegates from almost every African and European country involved. The agenda for improving the lives of women of color, globally, includes acknowledging that all women have the ability to be wives, grow food, value motherhood, engage and protect girls and boys, and also communicate effectively, advocate, and be valued as equals.

Delegates acknowledge that while progress has been made, it could take 50 years to achieve parity in political participation, and 118 years for true pay equality between women and men at the current pace of change. In addition, as progress is being made, violence and resistance from men often follows. This violence, according to Mozambican delegate Precious Guebuza, often takes place publicly, but with little compassion or protection from others.

“It is important that as women we recognize the power in our unity, but also that there are other women who act against us because we do not look like them, speak their languages, or subscribe to their spiritual beliefs,” Guebuza told the AFRO. “Whether it is sex trafficking, forced marriages with young girls, or taxi drivers targeting African businesswomen for rape to keep them as housewives, the girls and women in India, Australia, the U.S. and Africa have common threats. We must contend with the realities that sometimes empowering girls establishes anger among men and elders who want tradition. These types of talks help narrow the gaps in our understanding and keep Black women, African women from becoming the victims of progress.”