Commission on Audit (COA) Assistant Commissioner Lourdes M. Castillo, Chairperson of COA’s Gender and Development (GAD) Focal Point System Technical Working Group, and Director Fortunata M. Rubico, Chairperson of COA GAD Secretariat, joined the Philippine delegation to the 61st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) from 13 to 17 March 2017.

The 61st Session of the UNCSW held at the UN headquarters in New York on 13 to 24 March 2017 centered on “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work” as its priority theme. The conference also discussed challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls as well as the emerging issue of empowerment of indigenous women.

The UNCSW is a global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. Its annual sessions include ministerial segments with round tables and other high-level interactive dialogues, general discussions, and interactive and expert panel discussions. Stakeholders organize side events to draw attention to critical aspects of the work on gender equality.

One hundred sixty two Member States, including the Philippines, and over 3,900 representatives from 580 civil society organizations participated in the two-week conference.

Representatives from government agencies such as National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Departments of Agrarian Reform, Trade and Industry, Labor and Employment, Budget and Management, Foreign Affairs and Science and Technology as well as non-government organizations (NGOs) such as Industrial Federation for Business and Professionals, P4MP Toboso, ARMM-RLA, NCRO and Coca-Cola from the business sector complete the Philippine delegation headed by Chairperson Rhodora M. Bucoy of the Philippine Commission on Women.

Assistant Commissioner Castillo and Director Rubico attended the Opening Session Ministerial Round Table B on "Technology Changing the World of Work", General Discussions, and Interactive Dialogue on "Challenges and Achievements in the Implementation of the MDGs for Women and Girls".

The COA representatives also supported side events sponsored by the Philippines: The Road to Indigenous People Empowerment on 16 March and Women in Emergencies: Promoting and Protecting their Rights on 17 March. The Philippines also sponsored #Here4Her: Making Reintegration Work for Filipino Women Migrant Workers on 20 March.

The COA officials also attended side events hosted by other countries, international organizations and NGOs to observe presentations pertaining to transparency and accountability governance under Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in relation to Goal 5 - Achieve Gender Equality and Empower Women and Girls. 

 “Our plan is for COA to host a side event, hopefully to be co-sponsored by other Supreme Audit Institutions, on benchmark and best practices on performance audits (Goal 16 on transparent and accountable governance) of programs pertaining to Goal 5,” Director Rubico said.

At the 60th Session of the UNCSW in March last year, Assistant Commissioner Castillo presented the Commission’s pioneering work in the audit of Gender and Development (GAD) funds at the side event entitled “Show Me the Money: How Governments Allocate and Audit Funds to Achieve Gender Equality as a 2030 Sustainable Development Goal.” She talked about COA’s accomplishments in the audit of GAD allocated funds and the plan for a results-focused audit approach as the Commission’s commitment to the achievement of the SDGs on Gender Equality under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development .

Meanwhile, the United Nations reiterated that gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and women’s full and equal participation and leadership in the economy are vital to achieve sustainable development at the conclusion of the 61st UNCSW on 24 March 2017.

UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka observed that the outcomes are important building blocks to ensure that 2030 will be the year that the world achieves substantive equality. “The Commission has recognized the importance of removing structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment, including ending all forms of violence against women; and harassment of women and girls everywhere, be it in the public or private space,” Ngcuka said.

“We also recognized the importance of ensuring that all of the structural impediments to women’s economic empowerment are addressed, both in the formal context in the public sector as well as in the private sector,” she added.

Among the structural barriers that impede gender equality identified at the Conference were “unequal working conditions, women’s over-representation in the informal economy, gender stereotypes and social norms that reinforce women’s concentration in certain sectors, and the uneven share of unpaid care work that women do.”

Measures that Member States committed to pursue include “implementation of equal pay policies through social dialogue, collective bargaining, job evaluations and gender pay audits as well as providing equal pay and social protection to create decent work for paid care and domestic workers.”