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Participation in the 53rd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (February 28-March 5, 2009)

 The 53rd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was held at the UN Headquarters in New York from March 2 to 13, 2009. I participated in the session and various related events up until March 5. The priority theme for this year’s session was “Equal Sharing of Responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS.”

CSW Opening Session and Speeches by Representatives

 Many people participated in the CSW opening session. Since the conference room was packed, an additional room was prepared for NGO members who could not find seats. After expressing their gratitude for the participation of so many, including ministers and other high-level politicians, the chairpersons also thanked NGO members for participating in the event and for providing valuable comments in support of the CSW. Concerning this year’s theme, the chairpersons also explained that the sharing of responsibilities between women and men is deeply related to private and informal issues, and that these issues, including problems of women’s unpaid work, concern the roles of women and men in families and local communities. Care for persons living with HIV/AIDS, they said, epitomizes these problems.

 They emphasized that to promote equal sharing of responsibilities in caregiving, we must first recognize that this issue relates deeply to values of individual societies and cultures. They also emphasized the vital importance of removing excessive burden from caregivers. In the context of the increasing numbers of women working outside their homes, it is even more essential to equally share care responsibilities between women and men, they maintained. I was particularly impressed by their remarks which pointed out that in the current global economic crisis we must carefully monitor national governments. And moreover, we must make sure that they do not delay their efforts to achieve set targets, despite their tight budgets. I truly support these views.

 The most interesting speech was given by SHA Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. All the audience members, including both national delegates and NGO representatives, applauded when he said, “Even though I equally share family responsibilities with my wife in my own home, my approach is not well recognized by other politicians, so I can make little change.”

 The representative of the EU delegation raised questions regarding work-life balance, collaboration in parental care and social responsibilities.

Side Events


 Thanks to the efforts of Hiroko HARA, Chair of Japan Women’s Watch (JAWW), we were able to organize a side event at the UN Headquarters, involving both national delegates and NGO representatives. This event, themed “Gender Equality and Care in Japan and the International Community,” began with greetings by Takashi AHIKI, Minister of the Permanent Mission of Japan, and Keiko TAKEGAWA, Deputy Director-General of the Cabinet Office. Following their greetings, presentations were provided by representatives of the Japanese Association of University Women, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Women’s Association for a Better Aging Society, Medecins Sans Frontieres etc. On behalf of the Kitakyushu Forum on Asian Women (KFAW), I also gave a presentation on the theme “Necessity of East Asian Networks for Elderly Care.” The meeting room of this side event, with a capacity of 50 seats, was crammed to nearly twice its capacity. And the audience was extremely enthusiastic. The Q&A session was particularly lively, with many questions raised by the audience. In addition to taking part in this event, I participated in workshops held by women from Kyrgyzstan and South Korea, and an additional one held by the International Council of Jewish Women. I also attended the Beijing + 15 Caucus.

 Next year will mark the 15th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. Although the United Nations does not plan any special meeting at the next CSW session (the 54th), the UN spokesperson announced that the 54th Session will be highlighted by evaluation of past achievements and a future outlook regarding commitments in individual countries. It was also decided that prior to the 54th Session, NGOs will organize an NGO forum in New York. To prepare for that forum, NGOs in the Asia-Pacific region will gather in the Philippines in October 2009.