The Minister for Equality and Feminisms, Tània Verge Mestre, has taken stock of her visit to New York to participate in the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67). Verge explained that the National Strategy for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and the policies of the Catalan Government to tackle gender-based violence have been praised by the international organisations and entities with which she has met over the last few days, including UN Women, the NYC Commission on Gender Equity, the International Peace Institute and Partners for Reproductive Justice.
“Catalonia is at the forefront in guaranteeing sexual and reproductive rights:we provide free and territorially equitable access to the two methods of voluntary termination of pregnancy throughout the country, and the portfolio of public services also provides for free access to long-acting contraception,” she said. In fact, the Catalan National Strategy for Sexual and Reproductive Rights has also recently been recognised by the Council of Europe.
The Minister highlighted the fact that “Catalonia is home to 40% of the Spanish centres that perform abortions” and also noted how in the United States, a historic sentence that guaranteed access to voluntary termination of pregnancy at the federal level was recently overturned. She also referred to the Catalan Government’s progress on menstrual equity, a right that contributes to promoting gender justice and climate justice, including the fight against period poverty.
In relation to policies to tackle gender-based violence, the organisations and institutions with which Verge has held meetings over the last few days have particularly valued the approach taken towards institutional violence. Eradicating it “is feasible” and “shall require much more coordination to identify everything that re-victimises women who suffer from gender-based violence,” in the words of the Minister.
Finally, Verge announced that the Catalan Government will join an international alliance for the democratisation of care, following a recent meeting with the Global Alliance for Care. “An alliance that is centred on how public authorities take co-responsibility for providing care for children and dependent people, and how we make the care system sustainable,” explained the Minister. Verge stressed that “in Catalonia we are a benchmark in time and self-care policies,” and gave as an example the leave for gestational bereavement and flexible working hours in the event of menstruation or menopause with an effect on health, measures approved for employees of the public administration with the aim of extending them to the private sector through agreements with trade unions and employers’ organisations.
First intervention at the UN plenary to address women’s rights
The Minister also talked about her intervention on Monday in the CSW67 plenary, and stressed that this was “the first time that the Catalan Government has had its own voice in the United Nations plenary to speak about women’s rights.” Verge spoke on behalf of the local and regional governments and stressed the importance of promoting feminist policies at all levels. “There cannot be a global feminist agenda without strong feminist agendas at the local and regional levels, because these are the governments that are closest to the public,” she said. The Minister also called on the international community to “promote radical change,” because “feminist transformation is neither utopian nor impossible.”
The National Women’s Council of Catalonia, an advocacy body at international level
Verge highlighted the participation of the National Women’s Council of Catalonia (CNDC), the advisory and participatory body of the Catalan Women’s Institute, in the CSW67. “It is a source of pride for us as a country to have this Catalan Government advisory body, a body for political advocacy both within and outside our borders,” said the Minister. “What is going on at the moment in New York, not only in the plenary sessions, but in everything that is being organised around CSW67, that is where the feminist movement is growing stronger, where networks are being created at the international level,” explained Verge.
The CNDC, which has held advisory status with the United Nations since 1999, has organised an event as part of the CSW67 programme. The Catalan delegation’s event, which was held on Tuesday under the title of “Digital divide and feminist resistance on the internet,” focused on the debates surrounding feminist strategies to combat the gender digital divide and gender-based violence on the internet. A declaration was presented to denounce the dangers of the gender digital divide and to identify priorities for achieving digital justice.
Apart from this session, the Ministry of Equality and Feminisms co-organised a working day with the International Peace Institute, with the participation of academics, representatives of various international NGOs, the private sector and political representatives from various countries. The aim of this event was to share good practices, public policies and visions of how institutions can contribute to peace.
International partnerships to promote equality and feminisms
During her trip, the Minister held important meetings with international agents working to promote feminism and equality. On Wednesday she met with Democratic Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, a 16-year member of the US Congress who is known for her advocacy of abortion rights and the fight against climate change.
In the field of human rights, Verge met with Annabel Palma and Kajori Chaudhuri, members of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, with whom she was able to talk about the anti-discrimination policies promoted by the Catalan Government and all the work carried out by the Office for Equal Treatment and Non-Discrimination.
Throughout her stay in New York, the Minister has been accompanied by the President of the Catalan Women’s Institute, Meritxell Benedí Altés, and by the Head of the Delegation of the Government to the United States, Isidre Sala Queralt.