9 March 2015
High-Level Event Discusses Women’s Empowerment, Education
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UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Sam Kutesa convened a high-level thematic debate to galvanize further commitment and action toward achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls in the context of the post- 2015 development agenda.

At the same occasion, the Office of the UNGA President together with UN Women hosted the 2015 Global Observance of International Women's Day, under the slogan: “Empower women, Empower humanity.

Picture it."

69th Session of the UNGA6 March 2015: UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Sam Kutesa convened a high-level thematic debate to galvanize further commitment and action toward achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls in the context of the post- 2015 development agenda. At the same occasion, the Office of the UNGA President together with UN Women hosted the 2015 Global Observance of International Women’s Day, under the slogan: “Empower women, Empower humanity. Picture it.”

Many participants emphasized the importance of: gender equality for eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development; Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls; and integrating gender as a cross-cutting issue in the next development agenda.

In his opening remarks, Kutesa welcomed the accomplishments made in the areas of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 20 years ago. He called for: supporting a zero tolerance policy on the structural causes of discrimination against women; eliminating laws and practices that perpetuate gender inequalities; eradicating maternal and child mortality, early and forced marriages, and the unequal distribution of resources within the household; and promoting equality in women’s participation in public and private institutions.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said gender equality and women’s empowerment should have a central place in the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD 3), the discussions on the post-2015 development framework that “will culminate with the Special Summit on Sustainable Development” and the Paris Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 21). He called for the outcomes of these processes to reflect a “renewed commitment to the goals of Beijing.” On the post-2015 agenda, Ban highlighted the need to make further progress by 2020, and achieve gender equality by 2030.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, observed that at the current pace of change, it will take: 81 years to achieve gender equity in the work place; 75 years to reach remuneration between men and women for work of equal value; and more than 30 years to reach gender balance in “discussion making.” She noted a call from women leaders to achieve “planet 5050” by 2030, a commitment to address critical areas of concern, such as ensuring access to information, especially for rural women.

Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, President of Croatia, said empowering women “is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do,” considering that gender equality benefits the global economy, and called on women to break through barriers. She welcomed UN Women’s HeForShe initiative, which seeks to include boys and men in advocating women’s equality and empowerment.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women, called on three requirements for sustainable development: “tireless” political will and leadership; increased resources for women and girls including for UN Women; and a strong accountability that includes a role for civil society. She said the findings of the UN Secretary-General’s global review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action provide important lessons for the post-2015 development agenda.

Ahmet Davutoğlu, Prime Minister of Turkey, welcomed UN Women’s decision to open an office in Istanbul, and said Turkey has increased the number of educated girls through conditional education assistance.

Sivananthi Thanenthiran, Executive Director, Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW, Malaysia), called for: a social and cultural change in addition to an economic change; ensuring safety and equal access to justice; identifying a comprehensive set of actionable indicators; and including the most marginalized populations into our vision.

Providing examples of gender issues experienced by her family and friends, Miss Nohelia (Youth representative, Ecuador) said participation of girls is fundamental, and called on delegations to commit themselves to “transform our lives.”

Michaëlle Jean, Secretary-General, La Francophonie and former Governor-General of Canada, noted that: one woman in every seven is a victim of violence during her lifetime; 130 million have suffered of female genital mutilation; 800 women die in childbirth every day; and 70% of the poor in the world are women. She observed that there are women for whom daily suffering is “their life,” and none of them can be summed up in statistics. She remarked “let us proclaim that 2030 starts today,” asking not to wait until 2030 for a better world for all.

In a panel on women’s economic and political empowerment, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, Speaker of Parliament, Uganda, called for: enabling women to have free time to participate; disaggregated data; and reflecting gender in budgeting. On security and peace building, she observed that “women are the biggest victims but when it’s time to negotiate, we rarely see them.” Helen Clark, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, called for working with countries to ensure legal frameworks that guarantee equal property rights.

Jane Stewart, International Labour Organization (ILO), emphasized the need to: ensure women enter the labor market on the same footing as men; provide equal work, and equal pay for work of equal value; invest in affordable childcare as well as in maternity and parternity leave “with a promise of a return to work at equal pay”; and provide countries with an integrated framework to build employment strategies. Naila Kabeer, London School of Economics and Political Science, highlighted the importance of: expanding employment options to women as well as wage labor opportunities; investments that will connect women with market opportunities; a savings-led approach as a first step before going to micro-finance; and creating organizations and unions of self-employed.

Aizhamal Bakashova, PA Shazet (rural women’s civil society organization, Kyrgyzstan), called for: indicators that measure the rights of domestic workers, and a target on unpaid care work in the post-2015 development agenda; enforcing the living wage of women; and flexible employment practices. Patrick Ho, China Energy Fund Committee, remarked that a survey including the top 100 energy firms in the UK shows that only 5% of executive boards seats are occupied by women. He stressed the need to incorporate gender mainstreaming in overall planning and operational procedures, and at project levels.

In a panel on access to quality education and skills development, Irina Bokova, Director-General, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), highlighted the need to: target the most vulnerable segments, in particular teenagers who face issues such as poverty and early marriage; do a better job at coordinating health and education policies; bring education beyond school, including in community centers and vocational training for women; and use new technologies for training. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), outlined the importance of: ensuring the peace and security of the environment in which schooling takes place; using innovative learning platforms and data revolution; and investing resources wisely and better to make improvements for adolescents, and create programs especially in education and health.

Yoko Hayashi, Chair, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), stressed that it is the obligation of the state to investigate the conditions of women and take measures to eliminate different forms of discrimination against women, including those related to disability, ethnicity and caste. Geeta Rao Gupta, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said gender equality must not be confused with parity. Noting that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had an indicator on enrollment, she underscored that the quality of the education needs to be taken into account, beyond access. She further underlined the need for multi-sectoral programming, policy advocacy, and working with communities.

Mariana Mancilla, Balance Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud A.C., (Youth development organization, Mexico), explained that high-quality sexual and reproductive health education is one of the best ways to strengthen the link between education and women empowerment, as it can change gender stereotypes and prevent adolescent pregnancies.

Reacting to the presentations, delegates said the post-2015 development agenda should, inter alia: combat all forms of discrimination including gender inequality; address adolescent pregnancy and unpaid workers; reaffirm the Beijing Platform of Action; and include goals, targets and indicators that address legal, social and economic barriers to gender equality. Participants also called for: including gender equality in the outcome document of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD); economic independence of women; inclusive policies; equal access in terms of information technology; social protection; collaborative strategies to achieve gender equality; fully mainstreaming gender in national policies; ensuring the full participation of women in all areas, and promoting their involvement at the highest levels in the private sector; providing knowledge and information for female entrepreneurs; involving women in post-conflict recovery; increasing access to health systems; creating scholarships for women; and eliminating gender biases from the curricula.

The debate will result in a President’s summary that will be shared with Member States and other stakeholders. [Meeting Webpage] [Event Programme] [Remarks of UN Secretary-General] [UNGA President Opening Statement] [UNGA President Closing Statement] [UNGA President Summary issued 30 March]

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