CSW 68: A Renovated Call to Action for Feminists to Regain Power and Sovereignty

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, May 1, 2024

The 68th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the largest global intergovernmental body dedicated to gender equality and women's empowerment, concluded its two-week session on Friday, 22 March 2024.  

Once again, over 20 members of ESCR-Net came to CSW68 to join diverse women and feminist networks and social movements to advocate for substantive equality by calling for norms and frameworks that center gender, economic, and environmental justice. The focus this year was on “addressing poverty and strengthening financing and institutions with a gender perspective”. While members salute the final adopted agreed conclusions, they reaffirm that bolder reforms of the global macroeconomic governance are needed to address women's poverty and to advance a robust gender equality agenda. 

Our Priorities and Coordinated Actions at CSW68

CSW68 brought together more than 100 world leaders and 4,800 representatives of civil society organizations, marking the second-highest attendance in CSW records.

Before and during the two-week-long event, our members joined forces on a number of collective actions. Our participation at CSW started with a call to demand putting an end to the genocide and accountability for the atrocities committed against Palestinian women, an immediate ceasefire, and, in line with the theme of CSW, the immediate reinstatement of funding to vital agencies like the UNRWA along with the suspension of military aid to Israel. 

Members also actively contributed to the collective advocacy of the Women's Right Caucus, which was co-facilitated by APWLD, FEMNET, and Fos Feminista. They promoted dialogues with Member States and participated in strategy conversations with allies.

In a breakfast strategy meeting held on the second day of CSW 68, we identified shared concerns on advocacy priorities. Amidst the general regression of women’s rights globally and increases in attacks on the right to bodily autonomy, Sanyu Awori from the global feminist network AWID (Kenya) said, “It is a time to reclaim our feminist power and to challenge capitalist, neoliberal narratives and false solutions around poverty, development and financing”. 



In such a context, members celebrate the opportunity to join forces with a global, transnational feminist movement. " We confirmed a global scenario where women are most affected by poverty, inequalities, and violence from Mexico to the rest of the world,” said Norma Palacios, a member of the domestic care workers union SINACTRAHO (Mexico). 

CSW becomes a relevant space to advocate work related to extreme poverty including as a result of the violations of human rights by transnational businesses. The group denounced the increasing role of corporations in eroding democracy, workers' rights, and public social services, affecting the sustainability of life and the planet with total impunity. These concerns were further discussed in the event Challenging Corporate Power to Reduce Poverty & Strengthen Human Rights that we co-hosted as part of the coalition Feminists for a Binding Treaty on March 13.  “We see CSW 68 as a global space to create solidarity, learning and especially to draw attention to the situation we are living in Argentina where representatives of companies are now members of ministries and institutions that are promoting structural adjustment policies that benefit their business and profits which is a clear case or corporate capture of the State,“ said Claudia Lazzaro from leather manufacturing trade union SOCRA (Argentina), who spoke on the panel.


A Call to Center Care and Advance Debt Justice

Conversations on women’s economic justice need to recognize and advance the right to care. The Commission debates and conclusions are important mechanisms to push the ESCR-Net framework of the 6Rs that values and redistributes care work and ensures the representation and recognition of caregivers, the majority of whom are women. As Maria de la Luz Padua SINACTRAHO (Mexico) affirms,”We urge governments to advance transformative care policies that address the structural injustices underlying the undervaluation of paid and unpaid care work and to develop comprehensive care systems that redistribute time, unequal power relations, and resources.” 

In this sense, on March 11, we co-hosted with several other organizations an event on Rebuilding the Social Organisation of Care: A Key to Dismantling Womxn's Poverty. The event discussed the critical role of decent work for care workers and the public responsibility of States in the financing, regulating, and providing care public services and systems. Mela Chiponda, from the Shine Campaign (Zimbabwe) “We came to challenge the narrow belief that women's economic empowerment amounts essentially to women's entrepreneurship and we claim that in order to truly address women's poverty, there is a need to call for the cancellation of all unsustainable and illegitimate debt and urge for the establishment of fair debt resolutions and mechanisms.” 

Prioritization of tax reform also resonates in the debates. As Mahinour ElBadrawi from CESR pointed out, “proposals for progressive tax reforms are not only essential to have the political and economic ability to advance economies that put equity, solidarity and human rights at the center but also key pillars for the liberation of global south peoples and to the emancipation as global south women. CSW 68 becomes a key space to bring these calls and movements from different realities and constituencies.

The power lies in the opportunity to create synergies across debt, care and climate justice advocates. As Mae Buenaventura from APMDD commented, “We came to join forces with movements and networks to dismantle systemic ills, foremost among them, a financial and economic system that maintains the Global South's enslavement to servicing illegitimate debts. It rang clear in many sessions that the call for debt cancellation is very much alive and well in feminist agendas everywhere, and that breaking the chains of debt is a key fight we will not shirk from, to fulfill our rights and move us closer to our emancipation”. 

Our reactions to the agreed conclusions:

In line with members’ analysis and reflections, we welcome some of the advances made in the language of the agreed conclusions adopted on March 22, 2024. In particular: 

  • CSW 68 calls for tax cooperation and reforms to enable countries to mobilize and invest resources in gender equality with a focus on: taxing those with the highest ability to pay, including via wealth and corporate taxes; preventing regressive taxation that disproportionately impacts women with low or no incomes; and ensuring that public resources are allocated to address the needs and rights of women and girls.
  • CSW made some, albeit weak, advancements on the issue of debt. The agreed conclusions stress the need to improve international debt mechanisms to support debt review, payment suspensions, and restructuring. The text also recognizes the important role, though on a case-by-case basis, of debt relief, including debt cancellation, as appropriate, and debt restructuring as debt crisis prevention, management, and resolution tools, and as measures that can enhance fiscal space for investments for all women and girls living in poverty. However, as Mae Buenaventura appoints “the results are weak and insufficient in a context of countries withdrawing from their mandates of providing public services due to prioritization of debt service and the rollback in violence against women and care provisions and the persistent lack of protection of territories and the planet with low budget to address climate crisis” 
  • In relation to the right to care and employment, The Commission stresses that Member States, who bear the main responsibility for social integration and social inclusion, should strengthen care and support systems, including the care economy. This entails ensuring access to basic social services, care, and support they need, based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination, including through gender-responsive poverty eradication measures, labor policies, public services, and social protection programs, promoting the rights and well-being of all women and girls. Also calling to adopt new development strategies towards sustainable economies. These include strengthening inclusive and gender-responsive social protection systems and scaling up investment in the care economy to reduce women’s time and income poverty and expand their employment opportunities. We recognize the improvement in the call for the implementation of gender-responsive economic and social policies, including increased women’s representation, leadership, and participation in economic institutions, enforcing core labor standards to ensure equal pay for work of equal value, and implementing policies to support women-owned businesses.
  • With regards to climate justice the language is insufficient. Climate change pushes millions of women into poverty and hunger every year. CSW 68 agreed conclusions are still weak in marking progress toward a regenerative economy that ensures care and substantive equality, prioritizing human rights and sustainability. Members from APWLD said, “This is a missed opportunity to stress that establishing a Loss and Damage Fund grounded on human rights is urgent. The agreed conclusions also fall short of calling on Global North Developed countries and businesses to cease committing human rights violations in mitigation and adaptation projects and ensure the continuation of fair contributions to all developing countries at the necessary scale and based on the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities”.
  • Importantly, the Commission has urged all States and specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system to continue to support mechanisms that provide emergency assistance and vital services to women and girls living in situations of armed conflict, including those subject to acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide; alleviate the extreme poverty and the dire socioeconomic and humanitarian situation; ensure the safety and well-being of civilian populations, particularly women and girls, who lack access to basic services and work towards eliminating the root causes of such poverty. This became most relevant in the context of the withdrawal of UNRWA funding that is central to supporting the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees.


The Road Ahead and Next Steps

Members of the ESCR-Net Women and ESCR working group convened in New York during CSW68 to advance our collective demands for an economy of care.

As members stressed, the agreed conclusions should now be leveraged at global, regional, and national levels  for the promotion of global and national regulation and policies on poverty eradication that truly address women's rights and gender equality..”. The road ahead is critical.“We need to work to ensure our voices are heard: in a context where the right wing is advancing, where the criminalization of protest is advancing, we have to come together to define a feminist strategy for social justice and gender justice, which is absolutely necessary” concluded Claudia Lazzaro. 

In this light, we are looking at upcoming spaces and opportunities to continue to advance our collective advocacy for gender justice, particularly at the intersection of debt, care and climate. Our ESCR-Net Global Strategy meeting in September in Chiang Mai (along with other key global gatherings led by APWLD and AWID) will be a pivotal moment to recommit and scale up our work and our campaigning for substantive gender equality, leveraging our power as a network of 300 organizations and individuals across 80 countries. Our members will also continue to raise demands for debt and climate justice in key upcoming spaces such as the IMF Spring Meetings (April 2024) and COP (November 2024), in addition to calling for legally binding corporate capture regulations at the upcoming tenth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. Next year’s 69th Session of the CSW, marking the 30 anniversary of the Beijing Platform, will be a moment to re-gather with the wider feminist movement and women's rights to call for the transition to a regenerative economy that ensures care and substantive equality, prioritizing human rights and sustainability.

Members attending CSW 68

  • Peoples’​ Movement on Debt and Development, APMDD 
  • Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development, APWLD
  • Association for Women's Rights in Development, AWID
  • Center for Economic and Social Rights, CESR
  • Franciscans International
  • Fida Uganda
  • Instituto de Liderazgo Simone Beauvior ILSB
  • International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific IWRAW AP
  • Mena Fem
  • Sindicato de Obreros Curtidores de la República Argentina, SOCRA
  • Sindicato de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores del Hogar, Sinactraho
  • The Global Initiative for Economic Social and Cultural Rights GI ESCR
  • Mela Chiponda (individual member)