A Townhall Meeting for Women’s Civil Society Organizations with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

By Maria Östberg Svanelind, Internationell sekreterare, Akademikerförbundet SSR

The purpose of the meeting was to initiate a dialogue and constructive working relationship between women of the civil society and the office of the Secretary General.

The interest from the civil society to participate was enormous and the big room was filled to the last seat and I guess that there were between 600 and 800 women in the room and a long queue outside that could not get in.

The Secretary General started by giving a short speech about the situation in the world for women and where he committed himself to the work for women and gender equality together with the women of the civil society organisations.

He specifically pointed out that men, in fact holds most of the power today and that some men will lose power when women gain power. The SG stated that that is how it has to be!

The SG was very clear. He wants to work together with the women’s organisations to make sure that women get more power and better, equal representation. That is, he said, an objective not only for women but for the better quality of life for all of us.  Men need to stand up for women.

After the short introduction the meeting was opened up for questions from the floor. Around 10-12 women were able to address the meeting and ask their questions to the SG. Among them was unfortunately no representative of trade unions.

The issues raised from the floor were regarding:

  • Poor funding of UN Women
  • The women hope this is not a once in a lifetime meeting, but one that will be repeated often.
  • Important that the SG, when travelling around the world, takes the time to meet with diverse women groups on the ground.
  • Remembering that it is the act, what we do, that makes the change.
  • Shrinking space of Civil Society
  • How negative the US ban effected those countries representatively at CSW61.
  • Child labour
  • Trafficking of women and young girls
  • Unpaid labour
  • Sexual and reproductive health

The SG concluded by thanking for all the questions and again underlined the importance of the meeting. He could not promise more funding in the UN budget for UN Women and he was referring to the tremendous needs all around the world.

There is no doubt, the SG is committed!"


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