BIC offers fresh perspective at UN’s largest gathering on gender equality

BIC offers fresh perspective at UN’s largest gathering on gender equality

The Baha'i International Community delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women pictured outside of the UN in New York
The Baha'i International Community delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women pictured outside of the UN in New York



New York—25 March 2019

More than 9,000 people gathered in New York for the largest UN conference on gender equality and women’s empowerment from 11-22 March.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) brought together Member States, UN officials and civil society members around the theme of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality, and the empowerment of women and girls.

The Baha’i International Community (BIC) addressed a statement to the Commission entitled “Creating the World Anew: Leaving No One Behind” highlighting that while the provision of social protections is crucial, even more critical is understanding why the current structures of society give rise to so much imbalance and inequality, and tracing initial steps towards creating a new global order that embodies the oneness of humanity.

“Given that many of the systems and structures of society were designed precisely to reinforce domination and inequality, significant resources must also be channeled towards learning about effective models of governance, education, and economics structured around an entirely new set of principles: that human beings are one, that women and men are equal, that the emergent powers of the collective can be released through cooperation and reciprocity, and that humanity’s progress will be greatly bolstered by the full participation of all people in creating the world anew,” the statement reads.

Nine delegates from seven countries—Ethiopia, Germany, Kenya, Lebanon, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States—joined the BIC to share experiences of contributing to the discourse on gender equality and community building endeavors at the grassroots level.

A series of side events were organized and hosted by the Baha’i International Community during the Commission on various themes related to gender equality and social protection. Among them included a side event on faith and feminism where feminist and faith actors discussed ways to work in closer unity with Member States, the private sector and with each other, not only to address immediate needs with aid, but also to create self-sustaining social protection floors that are accessible to all of humanity.

“We propose that the foundation of social change starts with an education that is rooted both in the spiritual and material dimensions of life and that orients communities towards a new conception of relationships between men and women,” said Saphira Rameshfar, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the UN.

“We must not lose sight of the broader, long-term goal: namely the creation of conditions in which women and men can work shoulder to shoulder in constructing a more just and equitable social order. Baha'i­s view the advancement of women as an ongoing organic process aligned with forces of social transformation and the movement towards the recognition of the oneness of humanity.”

A separate event titled “Equality of Women = Prosperity for All” explored the economic dimensions of gender equality and the need for moral education in tackling issues related to inequalities.

Augusto Lopez-Claros, senior fellow at the School of Foreign Services at Georgetown University offered observations on the economic impacts of gender discrimination and shed light on the need to provide social protection systems that support women’s access to jobs in every discipline.

“Because of [gender] discrimination, half of a country’s population is marginalized and it leads to inefficiencies in the economy which leads to slower growth and delayed social and economic development,” said Mr. Lopez-Claros.

Zeina Ghamloush, a delegate of the Baha’i International Community from Lebanon, shared that it wasn’t enough for policies to address inequalities.  

“When we talk about gender equality, or any other issue that is preventing social protection in a society, the solution to the problem goes far beyond then just formulating a set of policies or systems to reduce the problem. All this must be considered in light of the fact that all humanity is one and that we all must benefit from the resources of our shared homeland,” said Ms. Ghamloush.

“A spiritual dimension is needed here to elevate the solutions beyond the policies and processes. Here the role of spiritual education proves to be essential as to changing the mindset and providing a new vision where the well-being of all becomes a priority.”

Delegates also shared insights from the international experience of the Baha’i community at the grassroots and neighborhood level, in particular of working with young people.

Laura Musonye, a Baha’i delegate from Kenya, shared how experience with a grassroots community program that works with young adolescents in informal settings had shown signs of promise.

“Through these youth programmes we found that young people are actually becoming active protagonists of change in their communities and are able to express themselves in an eloquent manner,” said Ms. Musonye on a panel alongside non-governmental organizations.

Ms. Musonye added that what made the program unique was that it raised capacity within the local populations so they could take ownership of their own learning and development, and was less about external bodies who came to offer a development programme for a particular population.

“It's about bringing about change within themselves and for their community,” said Ms. Musonye.

The Commission concluded with plans for next year, a pivotal year for the accelerated realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls everywhere. In 2020, the global community will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995).


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