Oxfam’s engagement at the Commission on the Status of Women

Francesca Rhodes Gender

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the global policy making body concerning women’s rights and gender equality issues. Francesca Rhodes and Vincent Trousseau explore how and why it represents a unique opportunity to influence governments to take bold action.

The Commission and what it means to Oxfam

Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) is an integral part of Oxfam’s work and is embedded into a wide range of programmes and campaigns. Although the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prompted governments to sign up to advancing progress on WEE  by 2030, the World Economic Forum has stated that it will take 170 years for women and men to be equal in the economy. For Oxfam, this is unacceptably slow.

The CSW which takes place 13-24 March in New York this year, is the global policy-making body concerning women’s empowerment and gender equality issues. It sets norms and standards aimed at guiding government action to advance the status of women.

Addressing women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work  is crucial to women’s economic empowerment
A critical output of the session is the forming of Agreed Conclusions, negotiated by governments and allegedly presenting a consensus by the international community, on a set of principles and actions to be carried forward by governments, the United Nations and NGOs.

Through our involvement in the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, which will release its second report during the CSW, we have been advancing debates on key issues such as unpaid care work, unfair macro-economic policies and the role of women’s rights organisations in promoting WEE.

At the CSW, Oxfam will be seeking to influence governments at the negotiations by leading events on the issues  below.

Unpaid care work

Addressing women’s heavy and disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work and recognising its value to the economy is crucial to the realisation of women’s economic empowerment.

SDG 5.4 commits Member States to recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies.  Achieving this agenda will require bold action from all stakeholders, to ensure that economic policies recognise and support care work, harmful social norms on care are transformed, and paid care workers have access to decent work and a living wage.

Oxfam will co-host a side event with the Government of Costa Rica and speak at an event hosted by the Islamic Development Bank, Islamic Relief Worldwide and UN Women where we will discuss priorities for action, and how stakeholders can work together in partnerships that will advance the agenda.

An economy that works for women

To date, the field of economics has been dominated by men. By asking the wrong questions or outright ignoring women, economists and policy makers have often put systems in place that cement gender inequality rather than helped solve it. It has meant that the gendered effects of fiscal policy on women are not considered and that the fundamental drivers of gender inequality are overlooked.

Women farmers are the pillars of agriculture in most sub-Saharan countries
Bridging global and local efforts and voices while focusing on solutions and providing case studies, the side event co-organised with the Government of Canada will explore the policy and financing decisions that governments can make to ensure economic growth benefits women and that their work is paid, valued and equal. It will also consider the role that civil society, and in particular women’s movements, can play in holding governments accountable in this regard to advance progressive policy.

Oxfam is also working with the Global Alliance for Tax Justice on an event which will discuss tax justice for women’s rights, part of the weeks of action put on by the coalition.

Women’s economic empowerment in agriculture

Women farmers are the pillars of agriculture in most sub-Saharan countries. They are mostly responsible for growing, selling, buying, preparing and serving food for their families. Yet, regardless of their role as guardians of food security, their participation in business relations is low and they have minimal control on access to resources and inputs including credit and technology.

In Ethiopia, Oxfam co-organises the Female Food Heroes initiative, a televised contest that celebrates outstanding women farmers and contributes to wider recognition of small-scale women food producers.

Building on the outcomes from this initiative, we are hosting a side event that will make the case for an enabling environment for women producers and generate discussions on the role of small scale farmers in the changing world of work.

We will also be present at events discussing how women’s economic empowerment can be realised for women displaced by crisis and conflict, the implications of the global gag rule and profiling our new ENOUGH: End Violence Against Women and Girls Campaign.

If you would like to know more about Oxfam’s engagement at the CSW, please contact:

Kim Henderson, Gender Justice Lead at Oxfam International

Francesca Rhodes, Gender Policy Adviser for Oxfam GB


Foyeke Tolani