CSW65: “Women’s Participation in Public Life and the Elimination of Violence for Achieving Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls”

The sixty-fifth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) convened virtually from 15-26 March 2021. The priority theme for the CSW65 is Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life and the elimination of violence for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

The CSW was established in 1946. It is the largest UN annual gathering on gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Commission is the primary UN platform through which national governments work together to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The CSW meets annually for two weeks around March at the UN HQ in New York;  to prepare recommendations that can shape global standards on women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social, and educational fields; to document the reality of women’s lives throughout the world; to monitor and review progress and problems in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and to ensure that the UN system is in compliant with highest standards for gender equality, and that its activities and reports give due attention to women and gender analysis. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the CSW65 convened virtually. The good news is that virtual set-up allows more people from various parts of the world to participate in the proceedings and to host side events. According to the NGO CSW/New York, a record number of over 27,000 people from around the globe participated in some capacity during the CSW65. And over 700 side events were hosted by global women’s rights and gender equality organizations. A lot of the events were very informative. You may click on the links below to view some of the sessions and side events.

The outcome of the Commission’s consideration of the priority theme during the sessions takes the form of agreed conclusions negotiated by all Member States. The UN Women drafts the document and submits it to the Bureau Member States. Each Member State reads and inserts or removes what they don’t want. NGOs also have the opportunity to make input.

Read more: Unedited Agreed Conclusions from CSW65: https://bit.ly/31wISIl

Recording of CSW65 official meetings and side events: https://bit.ly/3ryBVBi

More on side events: https://bit.ly/39JHNld


At this moment in history, when many people around the world yearn for justice, peace, and security, here is a milestone worth celebrating. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into force on 22 January 2021. The Treaty is the first legally-binding international agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons entirely. The coming into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons implies that henceforth; the development, production, testing manufacture, acquisition, possession or stockpiling, transfer, control or receipt, use or threat to use, stationing, or deployment of nuclear weapons are now considered illegal.

Below are some facts about the Treaty on The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, prepared by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nukewatch, and The Nuclear Register:

  • The United Nations approved the Treaty in July 2017 by 122 nations.
  • According to the terms of the Treaty, 50 nations had to ratify it (or accede to it) before it would enter into force. Entry into force would automatically happen 90 days after the 50th ratification was deposited at the UN.
  • As of 1 November 2020, 84 states have signed the Treaty.
  • On 24 October 2020, Honduras became the 50th nation to deposit its ratification at the United Nations.
  • The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will enter into force on 22 January 2021.
  • None of the nuclear weapons (US, Russia, England, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea) have signed the Treaty. Legally, the terms of the Treaty will not apply to them until they have signed the Treaty. None of the “umbrella states” – those countries protected by agreements with nuclear powers have signed the Treaty.
  • The Treaty outlaws the development, manufacture, testing, possession, transfer, acquisition, stockpiling, use or threat of use, control receipt, stationing or deployment of nuclear weapons.
  • The entry into force of the Treaty will make nuclear weapons illegal under International Law.
  • The Entry into Force will pressure umbrella nations, especially nations with US/NATO nuclear weapons deployed on their soil (Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Turkey) and nations that permit nuclear weapons in there, controlled waters, or on US bases on their soil, to reconsider their responsibilities under the Treaty.
  • Five of the nuclear weapons states (US, England, France, China, Russia) have been obligated under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (since 1970) to pursue disarmament “in good faith” “at an early date.” The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is an expression of the impatience of non-nuclear states with the failure of NPT states to meet their obligation to disarm.
  • According to Article 6 of the US Constitution, international treaties to which the US is a signatory are the “Supreme Law of the Land” and supersede state laws.
  • With the Entry into Force of the TPNW, Nuclear Weapons will now be in the same category as land mines, cluster munitions, chemical and biological weapons, and poison gas.
  • As of September 2020, the nuclear weapons states possess 13,400 nuclear weapons.

 *The breakdown is as follows –

Learn more:

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: https://bit.ly/3qG8AVh



The coronavirus pandemic has not only disrupted the social and economic lives of billions of people around the world, it has also interrupted the education of over one billion children and adolescents in almost all the countries of the world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that the closures of schools, universities, and other learning institutions and the interruption of many literacy and lifelong learning programmes, have affected the lives of 1.6 billion students in over 190 countries. In the wake of this unprecedented disruption in education, the United Nations observes the International Day for Education. In his message to mark the 2021 International Day for Education, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres paid tribute to the resilience of students, teachers, and families in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic that, at its peak, forced almost every school, institute, and university to close its doors.

The right to quality education is a human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 26) and affirmed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2015, all Member States of the UN unanimously adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals with the pledge to ensure quality education for every child by 2030. Education offers children an opportunity out of poverty and a fair chance in life. But sadly, a staggering 265 million children and adolescents around the world still do not have the prospect to enter or complete school, according to a UN report. The report also indicates that; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math, less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school, and about four million children and youth refugees are out of school.

As we commemorate the International Day for Education, the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, has urged governments to advance Sustainable Development Goal 4 to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Learn more: International Day for Education:https://bit.ly/2NH8q21


10 December is observed as International Human Rights. On this the day in 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights“a milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

The 2020 Human Rights Day theme, “recover better, stand up for human rights,” relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. Human rights must be at the center of the post-COVID-19 world. Read the following excerpt from the 2020 UN Human Rights Day campaign:

“The COVID-19 crisis has been fuelled by deepening poverty, rising inequalities, structural and entrenched discrimination, and other gaps in human rights protection. Only measures to close these gaps and advance human rights can ensure we fully recover and build back a better, more resilient, just, and sustainable world.

  • End discrimination of any kind: Structural discrimination and racism have fueld the COVID-19 crisis. Equality and non-discrimination are core requirements for a post-COVID world.
  • Address inequalities: To recover from the crisis, we must also address the inequality pandemic. For that, we need to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights. We need a new social contract for a new era.
  • Encourage participation and solidarity: We are all in this together. From individuals to governments, from civil society and grassroots communities to the private sector, everyone has a role in building a post-COVID world that is better for present and future generations. We need to ensure the voices of the most affected and vulnerable inform the recovery efforts.
  • Promote sustainable development: We need sustainable development for people and the planet. Human rights, the 2030 Agenda, and the Paris Agreement are the cornerstone of a recovery that leaves no one behind.”  

Read more:

UN Human Rights Day: https://bit.ly/39vLrQi


The United Nations General Assembly in December 1999 designated 25 November the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The aim is for governments, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations to organize activities designed to raise public awareness on the issue. Gender-based violence is one of the most widespread human rights violations.  While governments, scientists, and the global community continue to focus resources on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, a more subtle but equally devastating phenomenon is also raging against half the world’s population. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, described this as the “shadow pandemic” in his message to governments in April this year. Many governments’ lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus spread resulted in the escalation of gender-based violence. Most regions of the world reported a spike in gender-based violence and domestic violence during the peak of the lockdowns earlier in the year.  

The UN Women organized a virtual event on 25 November to commemorate the International Day. In his remarks at the event, the Secretary-General stressed that violence against women and girls is a global emergency that requires urgent actions at all levels, in all spaces, and by all people. He reiterated his call early in the year when he urged the international community to strive to end the “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence.  On several occasions, Mr. Guterres has maintained that “not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence, and everyday insecurity can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.” That most gender-based violence happens in the home is an aberration because everyone has the right to feel safe, especially in their homes.

Read more:

Ten ways you can help end violence against women, even during a pandemic; https://bit.ly/3fv6oMf

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls.

Synthesis of Evidence on the Collection and Use of Administrative Data on Violence o Against Women: https://bit.ly/3pOx1jW

ILO 190 Convention: Convention Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work: https://bit.ly/2HAdHWb

Commemoration of the International Day of Eliminating Violence against Women (25 November) https://bit.ly/33kgRVE


The COVID-19 pandemic impacted how most organizations worldwide, including the United Nations, functioned in 2020.  The UN convened virtually for most of the meetings and conferences because of the travel restrictions and prohibition on large gatherings. A few others were either canceled or postponed to a later date. With yet no known cure for the virus and access to the new vaccine not assured to the broader global population very soon, the UN will most likely continue to maintain virtual meetings, at least through the first quarter of 2021.

 The good news about virtual meetings is that it allows for broader participation. More people can follow the proceedings from anywhere in the world, as long as they have the digital technology and electricity to connect. With the use of digital technology, millions of people in different places worldwide were able to access many life-saving services during this period of the pandemic. On the other hand, so many people are left behind for lack of access to either digital technology or steady electricity. In a report released in August this year by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an estimated 463 million learners could not access remote learning at the peak of the COVID-19 schools’ lockdowns. The inequity in access to digital technology starkly revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic impelled the UN Commission on Social Development to take the issue as the topic for deliberation during its 59th Session, 8-17 February 2021.

If you wish to participate in any UN meetings listed below, please send an email to SNDatUN@SNDDEN.org. You will also be able to follow some of the sessions on http://webtv.un.org/

  • 8 – 17 February 2021: 59th Session of the Commission on Social Development (New York). Priority theme: “Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all.” Read more:   https://bit.ly/3pP0tGx
  • 15 – 26 March 2021: 65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (New York).
    Priority theme: “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” Read more: https://bit.ly/2J4Pt72
  • 19 – 30 April 2020: 19th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) (New York). Theme: “Peace, justice and strong institutions: the role of indigenous peoples in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16.” https://bit.ly/3mUJwsb


UN Photo

11 October is observed as the International Day of the Girl Child. According to a UN estimate, there are more than 1.1 billion girls under age 18 globally. These girls are poised to become the largest generation of female leaders, entrepreneurs, and change-makers the world has ever seen. The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl-Child is “My Voice, Our Future.” Girls are not just victims; they are also agents of change, as many girls in different parts of the world are proving today.

 As educators, parents, and society, we must continue to empower our girl-child to have confidence in themselves, to believe that they can achieve their dreams if they put minds to it. As part of an event leading up to the International Day of the Girl, SNDatUN co-sponsored the second day of the 11 Days of Action Twitter campaign organized by the International Day of the Girl Summit to amplify young women’s voices worldwide on girls’ issues. Our Twitter chat, which too took place on 2 October, focused on keeping girls safe and the power of educational equity. We believe that improved education help girls achieve economic parity and counter gender-based violence by teaching all children.


UN Photo
  • Worldwide, nearly 1 in 4 girls aged 15–19 years is neither employed nor in education or training compared to 1 in 10 boys of the same age. By 2021 around 435 million women and girls will be living on less than $1.90 a day — including 47 million pushed into poverty as a result of COVID-19.
  • 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence. Emerging data shows that since the outbreak of COVID-19, violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has INTENSIFIED.
  • At least 60% of countries still discriminate daughters’ rights to inherit land and non-land assets in either law or practice. (From UN Women)

Read more:

International Day of the Girl Child: https://bit.ly/3eiOQ5d

19 Days Activism Kit (November 1-19) for Prevention of Abuse and Violence Against Children and Youths:  https://bit.ly/35V7sEK


Extreme poverty is a violation of human rights. It strips an individual of his or her God-given human dignity. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, poverty is not solely an economic issue, but rather a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of both income and the basic capabilities to live in dignity.” Persons living in poverty experience many interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations that prevent them from realizing their rights and perpetuate their poverty. Some of the apparent deprivations suffered by people living in poverty are; dangerous work conditions, unsafe housing, lack of nutritious food, unequal access to justice, lack of political power, limited access to health care, etc.

On 22 December 1992, the UN General Assembly, in resolution 47/196, declared 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The theme for this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty addresses the “challenge of achieving social and environmental justice for all.” The growing recognition of the multi-dimensionality of poverty means that these two issues cannot be separated. Social justice cannot be fully realized without aggressively fixing environmental injustices at the same time. Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, also stressed this fact that: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time, protecting nature.” (LS #139) Evidence has shown that extreme weather events resulting from climate change have more devastating impacts on people living in poverty.

Poverty and other forms of injustice also breed unrest and violence. The former President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama, hinted at this in his formal address to the UN General Assembly in September 2016, as he reminded world leaders that “a world where 1% of humanity controls as much wealth as the bottom 99% will never be stable.” As coronavirus continues to ravage many communities worldwide, it has also exposed the economic and social inequities in many countries. Extreme poverty poses a threat to the social and political stability of any society. Governments must, therefore, focus on implementing social programmes to address injustices and alleviate poverty rather than forcefully or, in some cases, violently clamping down on protesting youth, as was the recent experience in Nigeria and other countries.  

Read more:

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty: https://bit.ly/3edbsUE

Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston: https://bit.ly/2TKx3dV


Achieving women’s rights and gender equality is among the top priorities of the United Nations.  The 75th session of the UN General Assembly convened a high-level meeting on 1 October to mark the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women (also known as Beijing Women’s Conference), and the adoption of the  Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with the theme, ‘Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” The Beijing conference, which drew women from across the globe, was a landmark event in the quest for gender equity and women’s rights.

In his opening remarks during the high-level meeting on 1 October, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, noted that though progress such as a reduction in maternal mortality by nearly 40% and more girls in school than ever before in history have been made, more needs to be done. He highlighted some of the issues still being faced by women and girls globally. These include:

  • Twelve million girls are married off before their 18th birthday every year.
  • High prevalence of femicide in some parts of the world; for example, in 2017, an average of 137 women around the world were killed by a member of their own family every day.
  • The exclusion of women from peace negotiations, climate talks, and decision-making roles of all kinds, at local, national and international levels.
  • Women on the average, have just 75 percent of the legal rights of men on a global level.
  • The World Bank estimates that it could take 150 years to achieve gender parity in lifetime earned income. And that closing that gap would generate $172 trillion in human capital wealth. That is what we are losing.

Mr. Guterres added that under his leadership, the UN has achieved gender parity in top positions of the organization.

Read more: High-level meeting on the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women: https://bit.ly/3mInTLl


Sr. Josephine Tor, SNDdeN

By Sr. Josephine Tor, SNDdeN; Nigeria, Teacher: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global economy and altered all aspects of our lives. The education of about half a billion children around the world has been impacted. According to a UNICEF report in August 2020, at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren (463 million) were unable to access remote learning at the peak of the COVID-19 schools’ lockdown. A vast majority of these children were from low-income countries and families. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child affirms all children and young people’s right to education. However, this right has not always been easily accessible to children from low-income families in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

A deserted Notre Dame School, Enugu, Nigeria

Schools in Nigeria were shut down in March to limit the spread of the COVID-19. Though many states across the country adopted broadcast learning for children in public schools, children in rural areas where many learners are located have neither the electricity nor the digital technology to benefit from this form of learning. The prolonged closure of schools has exacerbated the existing inequity in educational opportunities between children from well-off and low-income families, especially those living in rural areas. Inequity in access to quality education in Nigeria predates the coronavirus pandemic. Because public schools in the country are poorly funded, parents who have the financial means send their children to private schools to receive a better education. During the coronavirus school closure, children from wealthy families continued to learn from their homes because they can access digital technology. While many children from low-income families spent most of their time supporting their families in the fields or at home running chores. Sadly, some of the girls may have been forced into marriage and will not be able to return school again.

An empty classroom

I am feel deeply concerned about the impacts of the disruption in the education of millions of children in my country and entire Africa. Some children may not return to school this academic year without support. As a Congregation that is committed to the education of children, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur will continue to provide quality education for children everywhere, especially those living in poverty. We are working hard to ensure that children in our schools can safely return to classes as schools reopen soon. We already have plans for a catch-up and accelerated programs to help children who have missed out so much on learning during this long period. However, the ultimate responsibility lies with the Nigerian government to provide quality and free primary and secondary education for every child. The coronavirus pandemic has forever changed the way we do things, including learning. Access to technology must no longer be considered a luxury but necessary tool for schools and students