REFELA at the UN 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (UN-CSW67)

During the United Nations 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women held in New York from 6 to 17 March 2023, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), PLATFORMA, United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) and the Standing Committee for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership of Local and Regional Authorities (COPPEM) jointly organized a parallel session entitled: “Cities Forging the Path to Gender Justice:  Tools for equality in local life”. The session took place on 6 March 2023.   

The session was introduced by Dr. Claudia Schöning-Kalender, Chairwoman of the SPD in Mannheim-Wallstadt (Germany), Chair of CEMR Standing Committee for Equality, who started her intervention by highlighting that the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life, was created 17 years ago. She also called upon the local and regional governments to sign it in order to “pursue the objective of gender justice in all fields”, and she stressed on the need to pursue cooperation with organizations and stakeholders to learn and co-construct gender justice for all.  

For Ms. Schöning-Kalende, time is now critical to raise awareness and work harder to ensure gender equality, especially with the recent events in the world. She stressed that “women are the victims of crisis, catastrophe and war. They are the minority in decision-making; they are almost not represented in crisis management, peace negotiations and planning. They are also the ones who keep things moving and deal with the consequences. This needs to be changed” and that the reality of women and girls must improve so that they are able to play their crucial role as real actors in the development of their societies.  

Following the opening remarks, the two panels shed light on the experiences led by political leaders to elaborate, adhere to, promote and implement Charters for gender equality at the level of their respective regional and local authorities.  

In her intervention, the President of REFELA and Mayor of the City of Banjul, The Gambia, Hon. Rohey Lowe, reiterated the call to commit collectively to setting up gender justice for all by the year of 2030. She stressed that “achieving gender equality must be regarded as the attainment of human rights – important for sustainable development”.  She commended the partnership between the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), PLATFORMA, United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) and the Standing Committee for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership of Local and Regional Authorities (COPPEM) through which these sections have all developed their regional charters for local authorities to commit to gender justice and to addressing inequalities. 

Hon. Lowe reminded about the many challenges facing women emancipation. She highlighted the breaches that continue to refrain gender justice despite the presence of global and regional instruments, as well as national constitutions that protect the rights of women in their daily life all around the world, and especially in Africa where gender justice is yet to be reinforced and where various development frameworks are still to be respected and implemented.  

The President ended her intervention by “calling on the international community and development partners to support REFELA Africa to disseminate the charter and raise the awareness of the African local and regional governments on the important provisions therein” 

Ms. Silva BARALDI, City Councillor in Legnago (Italy), Vice-Chair of CEMR Standing Committee for Equality, pointed out how Charters for equality in local life can enhance the quality of life of women and girls. For Ms. Baraldi, the role of the gender charters is instrumental for the work of local elected leaders in their daily mandate to “defend our shared values of gender equality.”  Local governance can play a vital role in installing democracy and protecting the human rights, specifically by eliminating all forms of discrimination against girls and women.  

About the main constraints the Mayors or Councillors might face when trying to promote measures for gender equality, Ms. Claire HART, Vice-President of Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole, Delegate for International Relations and European Cooperation, Councilor of Montpellier and member of COPPEM, pointed out the job discrimination, “gender-pay gap”, and that job opportunities are unequal for women even when they excel in some education fields, so they still remain excluded from some high-ranked positions especially in the high-tech and the start-up sectors.  

Ms. Hart engages men in the process of assuring gender justice, because they are part and parcel of the real change.  

Ms. Fatimetou ABDELMALICK, the President of the Region of Nouakchott, Mauritania, President of UCLG Africa and President of the UCLG Gender Equality Committee, underlined the issue of girls abandoning education especially in the rural areas often when they reach secondary levels. Such discriminatory facts persist even when they want to pursue their education. They are faced with the need to move away from their home-villages towards other cities or regions where higher education is possible but this becomes impossible just because they cannot move by themselves far from their families. To this hostile reality facing women and girls’ rights to education, is added some stereotypes imbedded into our societies and attitudes against which Ms. Abdelmalick calls women themselves to contest.   

Mr. Emil Broberg, the Regional Councilor of Östergötland Region in Sweden and Member of CEMR Standing Committee for Equality, talked about the need for innovative approaches for the implementation of the regional Gender Charters to achieve gender justice at the local level. On the other hand, he stressed on the need to join efforts for better impact. He emphasized the importance of intergenerational dialogue and solidarity to enhance gender equality.  

Mr. Emil Broberg expressed his thoughts about the importance of working with and involving men and particularly boys and young men on gender equality for fair societies. He pointed out that to achieve gender justice for all, men should rather be partners and responsible actors. 

At the end of the discussions, the panelists have agreed on the following:  

  • To connect efforts between the Regional Sections to pursue the work on raising awareness about the importance of the Gender Charters as instruments for gender justice ;  
  • Support initiatives and innovative approaches led by local elected representatives from different sections to implement the provisions of their charters at the local level ; 
  • Organize regional workshops to share experiences and best practices;  
  • Advocate for equal rights to decision-making positions for women in all fields : conflict resolution dialogues, governance, high-ranked jobs … ; 
  • Open discussions between local and regional representatives and NGOs on the common goal of making the rights of girls and women a reality in daily life ; 
  • Support women to raise awareness about harmful stereotypes and attitudes challenging the rights to education, decent work and equal  opportunities ; 
  • Engage young people in politics as they are the means for change ;  
  • Encourage and create platforms for intergenerational solidarity in the fight for equal rights ; 
  • Lobby for the quotas for women and men on a local and regional level.