1 March 2000


Press Release
WOM/1181



COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN HOLDS PANEL DISCUSSION ON OBSTACLES AND ISSUES RELEVANT TO WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT AND GENDER EQUALITY

20000301

While African women produced 80 per cent of the food on the continent, they had a right to less than 1 per cent of the land, the Commission on the Status of Women was told this morning as it began the first of two panel discussions on emerging trends affecting women.

Addressing the panel, a representative of a non-governmental organization in Nigeria called Country Women noted that the link between lack of access to property and the impoverishment of women, especially rural women, had been clearly accepted. The gap must be acknowledged between the commitments undertaken by governments at international conferences and the actions they took back home.

This morning's panel, composed of six experts, focused on the effect on women of the following areas: human rights issues; the economy and the world of work; access to resources; information and technology; and the impact of HIV/AIDS. It had been designed to provide an opportunity for reflection on obstacles and issues relevant to the vision of women's empowerment and gender equality defined at the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in 1995 in Beijing.

Mame Bassine Niang of Senegal, expert in the Ministry of the Family, Social Action and National Solidarity, said the common struggle to turn women into full-fledged citizens had been "Titanesque". Gender disparities were most glaring in the legal arena. The forthcoming high-level review of the follow-up to the Beijing Conference should design a regulatory framework to guarantee women's fundamental rights, particularly their access to credit, land, and inheritance.

"Women want to work", said Dominique Meda of France, expert from the Social Affairs Monitoring Department, but societal inequities and stereotypical attitudes had made it difficult for them to balance their traditional role with their professional aspirations. Societal models had been based only on the desires and aspirations of men, and it appeared that all activities that did not increase a country's gross national product had been invisible. Some European countries had pioneered efforts to address the work/home imbalance. For example, local businesses in Italy, such as food stores and laundry facilities, had adjusted their timetables to working mothers' schedules.


Commission on Status of Women - 1a - Press Release WOM/1181 5th Meeting (AM) 1 March 2000

Gillian Marcelle of South Africa, Chairperson of the African Information Society Gender Working Group, said that while information and communication technologies had grown at record rates, the growth had been uneven. The distribution of Internet hosts, for example, had shown that North America and Canada had accounted for 65.3 per cent, and after Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, all other countries had accounted for only 5.9 per cent. Most of the countries of the world had experienced a vicious rather than virtuous cycle of change, she said.

Madhu Bala Nath, Adviser on Gender and HIV/AIDS for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)/United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), said that the message from women around the globe concerning the devastating effects of the AIDS virus was that the disease was spreading like wildfire. The infection rate was rising in women, as well as men, and the shocking increase among pregnant women and young mothers had added a new dimension to the global tragedy.

During a subsequent question-and-answer session, a Youth Caucus representative urged the world community of women to stop simply imagining the needs of young people, and start listening to and working with them. Governments should wake up to the dangers they faced, especially since half the population was 30 years old or younger. Other participants highlighted the value of gender mainstreaming for the development process, and condemned the denial of credit and training for women entrepreneurs. Others called for strengthened government machineries and an influx of additional resources to implement their programmes. One representative urged the State to intervene directly in cases of violence against women, rather than leave judicial recourse solely up to the individual victim.

Participants in the discussion also included the representatives of the United Kingdom, China, Mexico, Iran, Gabon, Belgium, Senegal, Pakistan, Argentina, India, Germany, Tunisia, and Guinea.

A representative of the International Conference of Free Trade Unions also spoke.

The Commission will meet again at 3 p.m. today to resume its general discussion on follow-up to the Beijing Conference.



Commission on Status of Women - 3 - Press Release WOM/1181 5th Meeting (AM) 1 March 2000

Commission Work Programme

The Commission on the Status of Women met this morning to begin a panel discussion on emerging issues, trends and new approaches to issues affecting women or equality between women and men. The Bureau of the Commission had identified a number of topics deserving specific attention under the heading of emerging issues, as follows: human rights; economy and the world of work; access to resources; HIV/AIDS; and information and technology.

According to the Commission's report on its agenda (document E/CN.6/2000/1), the panel will provide an opportunity to reflect on obstacles and relevant issues that needed to be addressed within the Beijing Platform's vision of women's empowerment and gender equality.

The panel discussion will draw from a workshop on "Beijing + 5: future actions and initiatives" convened by the Division for the Advancement of Women at the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), held at Beirut, Lebanon, last November.

Experts selected for the panel were chosen from the fields of study being addressed, taking into account equitable geographical representation and gender distribution and the involvement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Also taken into account were the suggestions of governments, civil society, the United Nations system and the Secretary-General.

The experts are, as follows: Dominique Meda of France; Mame Bassine Niang of Senegal; Charlotte Abaka of Ghana; Gillian M. Marcelle of South Africa; and Madhu Bala Nath, UNAIDS/UNIFEM Gender and HIV/AIDS Adviser.

Panel Discussion

DOMINIQUE MEDA of France, expert from the Social Affairs Monitoring Department, focused her discussion on the efforts by European countries to help women achieve some parity, as they entered the labour market and attempted to balance their home and family lives with their real desires to work and contribute to the economic development of their countries. She said that women could achieve equality in Europe only if the labour environment -– corporations, businesses and enterprises generally controlled by men -– was adjusted to integrate them into the labour market. While it was common knowledge that there was indeed a “glass ceiling” and that women’s salaries were often lower than men’s, professional inequalities would not stand in the way of women’s desires to contribute to society.

Many European women had come into the employment market in the 1970s, she said, and since that time many countries had adopted policies to combat those inequities, as well as the very real problem of balancing work with child-care and home-life activities. A consensus was emerging that child-care services had increased, and women were being offered more varied work opportunities. That, however, was not enough.

The international community and the European Union in particular must find a way to take advantage of the complex aspirations of women -- their desire to work, as well as raise children, and have a full family life -– to promote the very real benefits they can give back to society. “Women want to work”, she said. However, societal inequities and stereotypical attitudes made it difficult to balance that important role with their professional aspirations.

That difficulty had perhaps been created because societal models were based only on the desires and aspirations of men, she continued. It appeared that all activities that did not increase a nation’s gross national product (GNP) were considered invisible. Societal models needed to be adjusted to represent a fundamental approach that would address the desires of modern women, as well as men; productive activities in the social and cultural spheres, as well as professional desires needed to be considered equally. “In a gender- equal society”, she said, “there would be time for all these activities.”

She went on to say that some European countries were leading the way in efforts to address the work/home life balance inequalities that women faced today. Scandinavia, for example, had demonstrated that labour life was limited by social imperatives. The Netherlands had also taken a special approach to that issue by making women’s organisation of time a political matter. The idea had been that if women were to take part in the labour force without neglecting household tasks, there should be some way to promote part-time work for both men and women so that family life could be shared. In that regard, she said that men needed to be emancipated from the workplace so that they could spend as much time involved in family life activities as women were expected to.

In Italy, she said, local timetables for businesses, public services and child-care centres had been adjusted to accommodate workday activities and working mothers. That collective approach had allowed men to spend more time devoted to family tasks.

She said that working women today were of the opinion that they did not want to sacrifice their family lives. The opportunity was now before the Commission to promote new policies on social labour and time management to give men and women a chance to adjust to social roles.

MAME BASSINE NIANG of Senegal, expert in the Ministry of the Family, Social Action and National Solidarity, said everyone present had joined the common struggle of turning women into citizens who had full exercise of their human rights. The ongoing struggle concerned basic human rights that were inalienable and non-negotiable. Women's access to resources meant gaining knowledge and know-how. Their economic and social rights should be added to that goal, so that they could combat such handicaps as illiteracy, and high rates of infant and maternal mortality. The struggle was "Titanesque".

She said the global theme of the panel had prompted it to consider innovative approaches conducive to combating inequity and inequality between the sexes, and to draw a phased balance sheet five years after Beijing to see how progress had been achieved and to identify exactly where things stood. Innovative approaches were required to mitigate gender disparity. Factors restricting women's enjoyment of human rights had stemmed from lack of access to credit and land. In Africa, many countries did not have a personal status code or property land code covering access to land, water and the environment.

Further, she said the non-existence of a state of law, by which a State recognized the primacy of law and mandated all citizens to respect it, had impeded women's advancement. Indeed, most African countries had only just begun to enjoy multi-party systems and political pluralism, which had positive ramifications in such areas as power-sharing. While it was true that women needed to be more aggressive, political factors, which had only begun to change one decade ago, had restricted such an approach. It was only the first generation of Africans who would be able to fully exercise their human rights. In many countries, the struggle to survive had eclipsed all other fights.

It was in the legal arena that gender disparities were the most shocking, she went on. There, women's human rights had faltered greatly. Against that background, her country would begin by comparing itself to countries in other regions of Africa and the world. The focus would be on family law and family rights, and her Government would avail itself of others which had already succeeded. The fight today must be one in which family and personal status codes were promulgated in all countries, she said. The forthcoming special session should design a kind of regulatory framework to help guarantee women's fundamental rights, including their access to resources, credit, land, and inheritance. When a man fell on a battlefield, often a wife and children were left behind. Women must be empowered to conquer the insurmountable economic problems facing them as a result.

CHARLOTTE ABAKA, expert from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that the Committee was the only civil rights instrument that addressed the concerns of women at the global level, throughout their life cycles. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was celebrating its twentieth anniversary and the upcoming special Assembly session on follow up to the Fourth World Conference on Women would present the perfect opportunity to explore the close links between the Convention and the Beijing Platform.

She said that one of the notable achievements of the Convention was that many State parties had put into place temporary measures to address discrimination of women in all forms. Violence against women was now considered a worldwide topic that women talked about openly. It was important to note, however, that there was no specific article in the Convention that dealt with the issue. Perhaps, that was because the document had been drafted during the 1960s when it was still considered taboo. At that time, women had just lived with the violence. Since then, however, a closer look at the tenets of the Convention had shown that the idea of violence against women actually ran through many of the articles.

She said that there were many challenges in implementing the Convention, including stereotypical attitudes, the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS and globalization. Those issues might possibly have made women worse off than they were before. Women on the average were also not enjoying access to quality health services. It was important for the Commission to look at ways to combat these serious challenges, as well as those that had been overlooked, like the effects of economic recession and the lack of development opportunities for women.

Finally, she said that implementation of the Platform must be seen equally with the implementation of the Convention. In fact, the Platform mentioned the importance of the Convention several times and mandated the women’s anti- discrimination Committee to review the actions of States parties in its implementation. It was also very important for governments to see the implementation process within a human rights framework and not as a welfare service for the women of the world.

GILLIAN M. MARCELLE of South Africa, Chairperson of the African Information Society Gender Working Group, said that information and communication technologies were a complex and heterogeneous set of goods, applications and services used for producing, distributing, processing and transforming information. Those were a systemic, pervasive set of technologies, which were associated with fundamental institutional, social and economic restructuring. Such technologies had grown at record-setting rates, but those had been uneven. For example, the geographic expansion of such technologies had been very slow, and much of the growth had taken place in the rich countries.

She said that figures on the distribution of Internet hosts had shown that in July 1999, North America and Canada had accounted for 65.3 per cent, and after Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, all other countries had accounted for only 5.9 per cent. For those countries, there had been a vicious -- rather than virtuous -- cycle of change, characterized by an absence of innovation, poor integration of information technologies with the rest of the economy and society, and a lack of skilled people and finance.

The agenda facing gender justice advocates concerned making available such technologies to women and men on a fair and equitable basis, she said. Without that transformation, the technologies would not benefit women in such areas as an overall improved quality of life, enhanced skills, job creation, and political empowerment. Strategies for change included the expanded use of information technologies and the formation of partnerships among the State, civil society and the private sector for regular review.

MADHU BALA NATH, Adviser on Gender and HIV/AIDS for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)/United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), said that the message of the women around the world suffering from the devastating effects of the AIDS virus were clear -- the virus was spreading like wildfire. It was time for the international community to stop pretending that the problem did not exist. The infection rate was rising in women, as well as men, and the shocking increase among pregnant women and young mothers had added a new dimension to that global tragedy. The disease placed a further burden on women because they were now being confronted with the task of caring for sick family members often while suffering from the effects of the disease themselves.

She went on to highlight some of the voices and experiences of women living with the virus. In Africa, there was a need now to learn how to cope with living with the virus, as well as instituting strategies for prevention. In West Africa, it had been discovered that there was not much difference between literate and illiterate women in the area of information. In many Latin American countries, many women suffering from AIDS remained disadvantaged because access to drugs was largely available through formal employment and insurance schemes. She said that women living with the virus often got information only after they became infected. That was a significant discovery, because it would help organizations such as UNAIDS to redesign their programmes and awareness-building efforts.

There was also a call from women in the international community for better access to basic medicines, bandages, painkillers in order to alleviate suffering, she said. The AIDS epidemic had also focused more attention to the fact that stable cultural structures, like the extended family, were also being broken down. In Africa, where the virus was sweeping through families at the top –- fathers and mothers -- and at the bottom, familial compositions had been changed dramatically. That not only caused a rise in the number of orphaned children and babies, but it often left the very old in charge of families whose members were sick or dying. That presented a particular problem for development agencies, she said.

“It is time for action”, she said. When addressing the inequalities that women suffered as a result of the effects of AIDS, the balance must be changed so that women could live and die with dignity.

Question-and-Answer Session

During a question-and-answer session that followed the panel discussion, a number of representatives drew attention to the economic obstacles preventing women's full participation in their national economies.

The representative of the United Kingdom said that women's financial and social contributions to their economies had not been fully understood. Pay gaps had been perhaps the most important and difficult issue. The pay gap was the result of gender discrimination and the concentration of women in certain jobs. Indeed, it was inefficient not to pay women and men equally. The business sector and the wider public sector should be shown the economic benefits of further closing the pay gap. New arguments were needed to demonstrate the gender-equal contribution to the economy.

The representative of China said that the impact of economic globalization on the women of developing countries should be everyone's concern. Developed nations had the "absolute advantage" in that process of integrating nations and regions and further concentration of capital, information, and wealth. Developing countries had been at a disadvantage in the merger and competition between enterprises, and women had been the first affected by the negative impact on their nations’ economies. Poverty had deepened, posing an even more serious obstacle to women's full enjoyment of their human rights and the realization of gender equality. The situation demanded international cooperation aimed at helping the most vulnerable nations realize their common goals of development and prosperity.

The representative of Mexico said that encouraging part-time work for women as one solution to growing unemployment would risk the further marginalization of women and channelling them into jobs with less pay and unfair working conditions. Access of women to new information technologies was crucial to women's advancement. The focus, in that regard, should be on broadening the use of telecommunication and information technologies to developing countries, where there was very limited access to such tools. Cooperation and an exchange of information between women and women's groups in those countries would be useful.

She asked what to do about the problem of written legislation that had been contradicted by traditional or customary laws, thus, blocking its application. She also raised the issue of health concerns in Mexico, including the issue of migrant workers who brought the HIV/AIDS virus back into the country, and infected their wives and companions -- only the dissemination of information could eradicate the problem.

The representative of Iran also addressed the negative implications of globalization on women. Violence against women, in particular the trafficking of women and children, was another serious problem requiring an examination of the inequitable environment existing between women's responsibilities and rights. Women had more responsibilities than men, but the accounting process had provided them with fewer rights -- a serious impediment to their advancement. She asked Ms. Meda how to protect and strengthen the family as the most important context and environment for ensuring women's rights.

The representative of Gabon asked the panel what could be done to adapt society to women. Violence against them, in most countries, was still a taboo subject, and women had not dared to raise their voices. Countries with experience could help publicize the issue, perhaps through videotapes. Any discussion of economic resources should take into account existing cultural phenomena.

HIV/AIDS was an extremely alarming subject, she said. Ways to raise awareness, such as the distribution of condoms, had been discussed in various forums, but cultural and religious obstacles had made it very difficult to combat. Since the greatest ravages from the disease had been present in Africa, why not ask the pharmaceutical companies to devise a scheme by which poor families who could not afford pharmaceuticals were provided with them?

A representative of the Youth Caucus said that half the global population was 30 years old or younger. Thus, their human rights must be respected and promoted. Where were the young women in this room? After all, they were the key to implementation of the Platform for Action. A lack of access to basic health-care services, contraception, information and education had aggravated the AIDS epidemic. She urged the global community of women to stop simply imagining the needs of young people, and start listening and working with them. Governments should also wake up to the dangers faced by young women today, who would certainly attend the Fifth World Conference on Women.

Ms. MEDA agreed with the representative of the United Kingdom that a message needed to be sent that laws and customs should be adapted in order to find a balance between the roles of men and women in the workplace. She also said that increased participation of women in the labour market was better for their own productivity and that of the countries in which they lived. She also drew attention to the fact that part-time work programmes were useful only when they were designed to accommodate the needs and desires of both men and women.

In response to a question about violence against women, Ms. ABAKA said that it was true that in many countries it was still taboo to talk about the troubles women faced. But as women became more vocal, the issue was receiving global attention. Sharing their experiences could be a learning tool for all. She went on to praise the work of women’s rights activist groups and NGOs in that area. Without their efforts, the issue of violence against women might not even be on the current agenda.

She said that the issue of the impact of globalization on the economy of developing countries was an important problem. Sometimes, people were forced to travel to other countries to learn new trades and to avail themselves to modern technology.

She went on to say that the issue of finding a balance between traditional customs and national laws was a serious challenge to the implementation of the Convention because there often appeared to be two laws in a country. That was most obvious in the area of human rights. She stressed the power of NGOs to make governments aware of ways to codify traditional laws and customs.

Responding to a question, Ms. MARCELLE said that consideration of the issue of how telecommunications technologies were used and diffused had been in a state of retrogression.

Ms. BALA NATH said that cultural issues and the attitudes of religious groups needed to be taken into account in dealing with the AIDS epidemic. But it was critical to attempt to enact programmes that would “un-learn” harmful behavioural practices that would exacerbate the problem. She also said that she was pleased with the participation of youth caucuses in discussion of the issue, since the virus appeared to be peaking among 15-19-year olds.

Ms. NIANG said that the impediments of customs on national laws created various problems because women’s rights were not seen as a global issue. She said that the Convention and the platform should be used to attack cultural issues so people could choose whether they wanted to live in the middle ages or the modern era. There was a link between poverty and liberty, and the international community must make sure to address those issues so that women could achieve parity in all levels of society.

The representative of Belgium noted that the concept of gender mainstreaming was still alien to many who must contribute to its implementation. A strong new policy should accompany the specific techniques needed for that process, including analysis, training and cooperation. Moreover, mainstreaming required the involvement of both men and women. The development process itself should integrate the gender perspective, and that had not adequately taken place. The equal distribution of information technologies should also be met, and training and access opportunities should be created. The interesting comments by Ms. Marcelle should be developed.

The representative of Senegal said that access to credit was crucial to African women, as that was a force in their emancipation and empowerment. To ensure proper recovery of the national plans, countries must first overcome the lack of understanding of the process of gender mainstreaming and then seek to provide adequate resources. Promoting women's empowerment was essential to achieving gender equality, the representative of the Republic of Korea said. Women had faced great difficulties managing their work with family obligations. His Government had taken certain steps towards mitigating the conflict, including increasing the number of child-care centres. His question to Ms. Meda concerned the steps that governments could take to facilitate implementation of flexible working hours, and whether those could enhance productivity at work.

The representative of Pakistan said she had endorsed the views of the representative of the Youth Caucus. The challenges to implementing the women's anti-discrimination Convention had been very real for developing countries, as Ms. Abaka had rightly pointed out. One big challenge had been the limited capacity of government machineries, which had impeded the ability of developing countries to implement the Convention and the capacity of NGOs to monitor its implementation. There had also been a limited awareness and understanding of the Convention, at both the civil and governmental levels. The recommendations of the special session should, therefore, include strengthening government machinery for the Convention's implementation via an influx of additional resources.

The representative of Argentina drew attention to Ms. Marcelle's analysis of information technology and its uneven effect on development. Concerning violence against women, some regional achievements should be noted. In Latin America, the Inter-American Convention for the Prevention, Elimination, and Punishment of Violence Committed against Women had been concluded and ratified by her country last year. The possibility that the State could act directly in that regard had been an important milestone. With judicial power, the State could punish crimes or actions rather than leaving that up to the victim. The question of violence should be tackled through the adoption of a State policy.

A representative of a Nigerian NGO, Country Women, noted that African women produced 80 per cent of the food on the continent, yet, had the right to less than 1 per cent of the land. The link between lack of access to property and the impoverishment of women, especially rural women, had been clearly accepted. Indeed, governments had committed themselves to passing laws granting women land rights. Yet, unequal property rights had persisted. The gap must be acknowledged between the commitments undertaken by governments at international conferences and the action they took back home. She called upon governments to ensure that when they passed laws, they also enforced and translated them into languages readily understood by the rural populations.

Returning to the issue of seeking to identify a balance between women’s home and work life, Ms. MEDA said that there were many countries experimenting with flextime. In order for flexible work timetables to be useful, however, employees should work in cooperation with their employers so that both could benefit from this innovative idea. Mayors in some Italian cities had even enacted programmes to reconcile the ebb and flow of city life -- store openings and closings, business work hours –- with the pressures of motherhood.

She went on to say that in Europe “essential measures” had been taken in some countries to increase access to child-care services by providing flexibility without endangering the overall labour market.

In response to a question about difficulties in raising awareness of gender inequalities, Ms. ABAKA said that it was true that most of the women’s rights machineries were woefully underfunded. That was mainly because the Platform and Convention had not yet been implemented, hence, global governments had no basic guidelines. She went on to say that governments seemed to rely on donors, and recently there appeared to be donor fatigue for some humanitarian issue. It was up to the Commission and all interested parties to ensure that governments allocated their resources more effectively. In developing countries, most of the donor resources were going to NGOs. While that was necessary to some degree, it was also important to note that NGOs’ work should complement the work of national machineries

To a question raised about violence against women, she said that it was a pity that there was no specific article in the Convention that addressed that issue. She said, however, that since article 21 stipulated that the Committee should make “further analysis” of issues, there was a tool that would allow for further review of that issue. The spirit of that article must be incorporated into national and domestic laws.

Ms. MARCELLE said that while studies had shown that there had been very little proactive action taken to increase the presence of women in telecommunications fields, there were some governments in Africa that promoted regional initiatives that addressed the issue.

Ms. BALA NATH said that the pharmaceutical concerns must be included in the fight against the AIDS virus, but she warned that governments should play strong roles in regulating their activities in order to ensure fair distribution and access.

Responding to a question about the difficulties some countries faced in reconciling cultural ideas with national laws and initiatives, Ms. NIANG said that codified text and cultural realities were often at odds. She said that it was important for governments to enact laws that reflected cultural and social customs and did not contain hollow promises. Cultural differences made it particularly important for illiterate women to be informed of the content of national laws and initiatives so that they could participate fully in their implementation.

The representative of India wondered what could be done about increasing employment opportunities for women. He also looked forward to a time when the Commission could devote more time to the important issue of emerging trends in the area of gender equality for women.

The representative from Germany said that the strategies for increasing the presence of women in the male-dominated telecommunications field should include a complementary strategy, since women had a different approach to new technologies than men. On the issue of women and violence, she said that it was important to get reliable databases on domestic violence. She wondered if any of the panellists could offer help in that area, since research in her country had consistently failed to turn up adequate information.

The representative from Tunisia believed that a profound transformation of society was needed so that the roles of men and women could be equal. She also

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agreed with Ms. Meda that there should be a balanced family and work life, which also included the rights of fathers so that children could benefit from both parents.

The representative of Guinea expressed concern over the prevalence of AIDS in families where parents and children were both suffering from the disease.

A representative of the International Conference of Free Trade Unions said that women in the work force were considered malleable and cheap labour. While that attitude was probably beneficial for corporations and governments, it could be devastating for women themselves. She said that that attitude exacerbated marginalization, and denial of access to opportunities. She hoped that transnational corporations would change their policies and would work to address those issues. “It is time to match words with deeds”, she said, “as much has been suggested, but little has been done.”

Ms. MEDA said that in order for part-time work schemes to be successful, men must be asked to assume duties, as well as women.

Ms. ABAKA said that the role of the Convention was clear on the issue of monitoring the implementation of the Platform. In response to a question about the availability of data on violence against women, she said that while there was no universal tool for collecting data on that issue, it was important to use available data and information.

Ms. MARCELLE said that it was important not to bring women into any jobs in the telecommunications field that did serve their well-being, provide security, provide access to benefits and enhance their skill level.

On the issue of the effect of AIDS on the extended family, Ms. BALA NATH said that when the extended family broke down, children and the elderly were often left as heads of household. She did say, however, that in some African countries the epidemic had forced inhabitants to find new ways to deal with that issue. She had witnessed cases where villages used the crops from fields whose owners had been killed by the virus to feed orphans.

Ms. NIANG praised Tunisia’s efforts in enacting laws that addressed the rights of the woman, the child and the person.

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