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UN says women pay highest price in conflict, now in Ukraine

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Russia Ukrainian War (Ukrainian State Emergency Service)

Women and girls pay the highest price in all crises and conflicts, from Myanmar and Afghanistan to the Sahel and Haiti, and “the horrific war in Ukraine now joins that list,” the agency’s director said on Monday. of UN women.

Deputy Secretary-General Sima Bahous told the opening session of the annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women that every passing day of the war is damaging the lives, hopes and future of Ukrainian women and girls.

And he added that the fact that it is located between “two wheat and oil producing nations threatens food security and access to essential services around the world” and “this will also affect women and girls more”.

Bahous made no mention of the men who are being killed and injured fighting in Ukraine, although he did say: “I pray that they (women), and all those who are experiencing conflict, will know peace soon.”

The priority theme of this year’s two-week meeting is the empowerment of women to tackle climate change. It is the first face-to-face session of the Commission on the Status of Women in three years after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As with all crises,” said Bahous, “climate change also exacts its highest price from women and girls.”

Bahous, who is executive director of UN Women, said this is especially true for those already left behind, female-headed households, rural women, girls who miss school because they have to walk further to fetch water in times of drought, women who cannot Access to land, older women and women without access to finance.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world is still dominated by men, “the result of millennia of patriarchy that excludes women and prevents their voices from being heard.”

The climate crisis, pollution, desertification and biodiversity loss along with the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the Ukraine war and other conflicts affect everyone, but “women and girls face the greatest threats and deeper damage,” he said.

“Women suffer most when local natural resources, including food and water, are threatened and have fewer ways to adapt,” the UN chief said. “The nutrition, income and livelihoods of women farmers are disproportionately affected by environmental shocks and extreme weather such as droughts and floods.”

Guterres said there is mounting evidence linking child marriage and exploitation to the climate crisis. And when climate disasters occur, now with increasing frequency, “research shows that women and children are up to 14 times more likely to die than men,” he said.

Gladys Acosta Vargas, president of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said the war in Ukraine has affected civilians, including a large number of refugee women and children who were forced to leave their loved ones at home. . She urged an end to hostilities and peace efforts that ensure equal participation of women.

The committee monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has been ratified by 189 countries. The 45-member Commission on the Status of Women is the UN body that promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women, and is one of the governing bodies of UN Women.

Vargas said the pandemic “has unfortunately diverted the world’s attention from the climate crisis and gender-based violence against women and girls.”

“However, it has not stopped hurricanes, floods and wildfires from posing existential threats to women and girls in many parts of the world,” she said.

Vargas said that the degradation and destruction of natural resources exacerbates gender-based violence, citing as an example women and girls who need to travel greater distances to fetch water and face higher risks of sexual violence. She said that the committee is also alarmed by the increasing attacks, threats, harassment and murders of indigenous women who defend their environmental, land and territorial rights.

General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid urged the session to challenge discrimination and gender stereotypes.

“Young climate activists have helped fuel a global environmental movement,” she said. “Women leaders have spearheaded the Paris climate agreement (2015). And women in developing countries are transforming their communities by adopting sustainable practices.”

She called for progressive tax regimes and “gender-sensitive budgets that improve women’s economic rights and access to public services while redressing discrimination and inequality.”

Shahid also urged greater representation of women in decision-making on climate action and elsewhere, noting that in the 76-year history of the United Nations, only four women have served one-year terms as UN presidents. the General Assembly, and there has never been a secretary general.

“I would personally lead from the front calling for the next secretary general to be a woman,” he said. “Join me in this bugle call.”

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