The Equal Sharing of Responsibilities between Women and Men

The annual Commission on the Status of Women took place during the first two weeks of March at the United Nations in New York. This commission was established in 1946 to promote, report on and monitor issues relating to the political, economic, civil, social and educational rights of women. The theme this year was “The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS.”

Providing care for children, the sick, the elderly, and the disabled has always been considered women’s work, while men have been expected to be the primary breadwinners for their families.  Even though this traditional division of labor has long been the norm in most societies and cultures, there is a need for change today because there is evidence that this arrangement increases poverty, limits girls’ access to education, negatively impacts the health of women and girls, limits their participation in political decision making and reduces their ability to help their communities cope with climate change. The challenge of caring for those effected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic has compounded these problems.  All of this leaves families, communities and nations worse off.

While the outcome document from CSW 53 still needs to be extensively studied and analyzed, one important result of the commission is already being widely noted and discussed within UN circles. Many believe that CSW 53 has moved the issue of the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men from the private and family sphere into the public square in the same way that the issue of domestic violence was moved over a decade ago. Just as domestic violence was once regarded as a “family matter” and is now the subject of public policy in most countries, many believe that this commission brought to light how the unequal sharing of responsibilities circumscribes the full benefits of citizenship for women and girls and marks the beginning of a change in the way that families, communities and nations think about “women’s work.”

Visit the website of the 53rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

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