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Takeaways from the 78th general assembly, 2023

The 78th general assembly was crowded with many new collaborations, speeches, and ideas to pursue key goals in each division in the United Nations. Over the course of last week from September 18th to the 24th, heads of state, prominent government figures globally, UN leaders, and civil society representatives gathered collectively to tackle the world's most urgent challenges. In this article, we will dive into committees and webinars conducted from women representatives in many different countries, with their primary focus being on gender/legal equality on a global scale.

Women Leadership and the use of Data to revise gender discriminatory laws

Catherine Harrington from the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights (GCENR) highlighted advancements in various countries, emphasized the determination of Malaysian women facing unfair nationality laws, and underscored how lingering discriminatory nationality laws cause unnecessary suffering. Hyshyama Hamin from the Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law (GCEFL) discussed the coalition's accomplishments and stressed the importance of aligning activism with the real-life consequences of biased family laws on women and girls. She noted that those most impacted by these discriminatory laws are at the forefront of advocating for reform, both at the national and global level. Viewing the webinar as well as the other live portions of the GA led to a realization that was implied by these women, hinting that this will unfortunately be no easy task. It is important to note that changing these laws is often an incredibly slow and difficult process, due to the country’s own culture or religion. Hamin described it as "culture and religion serve as justifications for maintaining these discriminatory laws”. This can mark a crucial step and topic of discussion for the next GA start up in which the next orators will have a chance to bring strong resolutions onto the table.

Tools for addressing FGM in the United States

Luckily on the same day, Equality Now, members of the US End FGM/C Network, advocates, scholars, law enforcement experts, and survivors of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) convened in person to deliberate on the obstacles and advancements in combating this practice in the United States. They introduced two crucial new resources to track progress and address FGM/C through legal means. While national laws exist that criminalise FGM as a federal crime, state laws play an important role in identifying and providing at-risk girls with protection. The effective implementation of these state laws, which govern institutions and services that directly interact with individuals at risk, is pivotal in ensuring that a cross-sectoral approach is taken to protect victims of FGM.

The passage also underscores that simply enacting these laws is not enough; effective implementation requires a multifaceted approach involving education and training for professionals who may encounter FGM/C cases, as well as community outreach and awareness programs. Jill Thompson, Equality Now's Regional Representative for North America and Global Lead on Adolescent Girls, who led the panel discussion, emphasized the widespread nature of the issue. She pointed out that while the practice of FGM/C may differ from one country to another, a common thread is its lack of health benefits and its underlying intention to regulate women's sexuality.

HeforShe Summit

The last event that will be highlighted is the HeforShe summit. This event was one of the UN’s most influential flagship partner initiatives, partnering with both men and boys to advance gender equality throughout the world. It focused on high-level representation, serving as a platform for key partners to come together to assess and share their progress in advancing gender equality. It's a call to action, urging others to follow suit and make concrete efforts to support gender equality. The participation of prominent individuals and thought leaders signifies the commitment of influential figures and organizations in this ongoing global effort to promote gender equality.

The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo's presence at the HeForShe Summit is significant because it shows the commitment of the highest leadership of the DRC to promote gender equality. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, like many other countries, faces challenges related to gender equality, including issues such as gender-based violence, unequal access to education and healthcare, and limited economic opportunities for women.

After an eventful week, delegates returned back to their home countries in which they took the experience, skills, and ideas and applied it to their policies at their own government bodies in order to spark a change in terms of gender equality. Now, it is time for Equality Now to build on the newly established connections and extend invitations to potential allies. Their new aim, based on their performance and panels they presented, is to foster collaboration as they approach the Summit of the Future during the next UNGA in September 2024, where the adoption of the Global Digital Compact and discussions on UN reform will take place.


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