2 March 2010
Economic and Social Council
WOM/1777

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty-fourth Session

5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)


Declaration Adopted by Women’s Commission Reaffirms Beijing Texts, Stresses Need


to Include Gender Perspective in Summit Review of Millennium Development Goals


Ongoing High-level Debate Paints Picture of Women Worldwide

As Still Poorer, Less Educated, Less Likely to Access Basic Health Services


Reaffirming the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, delegates attending the fifty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women today pledged to undertake further action to ensure the full and accelerated implementation of those important instruments.


With the consensus adoption of a declaration on the fifteenth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference, the Commission also reaffirmed the outcome documents of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly -– "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century" -– and the tenth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference.


By the terms of the text, the Commission stressed the need for integrating a gender perspective into the General Assembly’s high-level plenary meeting in September on accelerating progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  It alsoemphasized that the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform was essential to achieving internationally-agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration.


In the general debate that followed, ministers responsible for gender and women’s affairs from around the world underscored that women generally were poorer, less educated and less likely to have access to basic health services.  In often spirited remarks, many detailed national efforts to empower women and create equality, particularly in the areas of health and political decision-making, while stressing that the myriad economic and social challenges to solidifying those gains not be underestimated.


“In many parts of the world, the most dangerous thing a woman can do is to give birth,” said Audun Lysbakken, Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion of Norway.  There was no room for complacency.  Little progress had been made in reducing maternal mortality since Beijing.  Statistics showed that countries that suppressed girls lagged behind, and would continue to do so without supporting the potential of girls and women and funding relevant policy change.  Redistribution of power, care and work was the key to gender equality.  Inequality simply was not “smart economics”.


Similarly, Nyamko Sabuni, Minister for Integration and Equality of Sweden, asked why women continued to be beaten, mutilated and denied opportunities for education and work.  While there was no simple explanation, she focused on the role of religion and culture, saying that the two affected each other, with an end result that enabled men to pressure women and girls and ultimately punish perceived misbehaviour.  Practices like female genital mutilation, which occurred among 3 million girls each year in Africa alone, stemmed from traditions that reinforced women’s inferior position.


On behalf of the African Group, Anatolio Ndong Mba of Equatorial Guinea pointed out that African States faced many challenges -- like poverty, high maternal mortality rates and violence against women -- to fully realizing the objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform.  In November 2009, women’s affairs ministers meeting in Banjul, Gambia, adopted the Banjul Declaration on the Strategies for Accelerating the Implementation of the Dakar and Beijing Platforms for Action.  With it, they committed to focusing on seven priorities, including women’s economic empowerment, violence against women and financing for gender equality.


No country had succeeded in eliminating all forms of gender discrimination, asserted Hala Latouf, Minister for Social Development of Jordan.  King Abdullah II had described violence against women as a form of “sabotage” that should have no place his country, a stance that set standards on women’s issues.  As such, Jordan had consistently reviewed the Personal Status Law to give women greater rights and protection, which included the ability to seek divorce without jeopardizing their economic rights.  In addition, a special criminal tribunal had been set up to address “honour crimes” in an effort to strengthen punishment of male family members who committed such heinous crimes.


Also speaking in the high-level segment today was the First lady of Namibia.


Statements were also made by Government ministers and senior officials on women’s issues of Mexico, Luxembourg, Kenya, Italy, Qatar, Paraguay, Lithuania, Bahamas, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Iceland, Cape Verde, Barbados, Morocco, Afghanistan, Austria, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Samoa, Haiti, Montenegro, Canada, Fiji, Senegal, Nepal, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Nicaragua, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Mauritania, Indonesia, Uganda, Germany, Russian Federation, Belgium, Czech Republic, Peru, Viet Nam, Portugal, Philippines, Estonia and Greece.


The Commission will reconvene at noon, on Wednesday, 3 March, to continue its high-level plenary debate.


Background


The Commission on the Status of Women met this morning to continue its fifty-fourth session and adopt a declaration on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women (E/CN.6/2010/L.1).  (For more information, please see press release WOM/1775).


Action


The Commission adopted by consensus a declaration on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women (E/CN.6/2010/L.1), by which it welcomed progress made towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment and stressed that obstacles remained in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.


Statements


Continuing the Commission’s general discussion, ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), speaking on behalf of the African Group and aligning himself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said Africa had made progress in implementing the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, notably in the area of gender equality in politics and decision-making, with Rwanda at the top of the global ranking.  The commitment to such issues was seen in the Constitutive Act of the African Union.  At the same time, progress made in implementing the 12 critical areas of concern had been uneven.  African States faced many challenges -- like poverty, high maternal mortality rates and violence against women -- to fully realizing the objectives of the Declaration and Platform and the outcome of the General Assembly’s twenty-third special session.


He said African ministers responsible for gender and women’s affairs, at a meeting in Banjul, Gambia, in November 2009, had adopted the Banjul Declaration on Strategies for Accelerating the Implementation of the Dakar and Beijing Platforms for Action.  Seven priorities had been agreed:  women’s economic empowerment through poverty reduction and employment creation; peace, security and development; violence against women; representation and participation of women in all areas of decision-making; sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS; climate change and food insecurity; and financing for gender equality.  He welcomed Assembly resolution A/RES/63/311, including the establishment of a new gender entity, and believed that a strong gender architecture was needed to help countries receive necessary technical and financial support to complement national efforts.


AUDUN LYSBAKKEN, Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion of Norway, said girls and women in many parts of the world had less opportunity than boys and men.  The United Nations Human Development Report showed that women were poorer, their wages lower in both rich and poor countries, girls received less education, girls and women were often denied basic health services, and violence against women persisted everywhere.  Despite the adoption of international treaties, resolutions and policy platforms, girls and women in many countries were still considered second-class citizens.  “One could ask -- does our work here at the United Nations make a difference?  Yes!  [United Nations] documents and calls for action have proven to be essential,” he said.  Since the adoption of the Beijing Platform, women and girls worldwide had made progress.  More girls had access to education, and more women were participating in the workplace and economic decision-making.


But there was no room for complacency, he said.  “In many parts of the world, the most dangerous thing a woman can do is to give birth,” he said.  There had been little progress in reducing maternal mortality since Beijing.  Statistics showed that countries that suppressed girls lagged behind, and would continue to do so without supporting the potential of girls and women and backing relevant policy change with adequate funding.  “The cost of gender inequality for national economies is not only indecent and wrongful towards the girl and women of the world -– it’s simply not smart economics,” he said.   The time was ripe to create a consolidated United Nations gender entity; it should be operational before the September high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals.  Redistribution of power, care and work was the key to gender equality.  Norway’s extensive paid parental leave scheme had enabled 80 per cent of Norwegian women to have careers while maintaining one of the highest birth rates in the developed world.


MARÍA DEL ROCÍO GARCÍA GAYTÁN, President of the National Women’s Institute of Mexico, said five years after Beijing Plus 10, her country had eliminated any form of gender-based discrimination in its 2007-2012 national development plan, used to build public policies. Further, Mexico now had in place the general law of Equality between Men and Women and the general law for the Access of Women to a Violence-Free Life to set national policy.  And the country had more than 200 plans to prevent sexual abuse.  Additionally, equality programmes were in place in the Ministries of Defence and Navy.


She said the budget set aside for women had grown by 248 per cent, most of which supported federal organization for gender mainstreaming, with $5 million used for municipal institutions.  The Ministry of Finance had published quarterly reports on the application of the budget. The Government had also made progress on 11 of the Millennium Development Goals and targets.  While programmes had been launched to reconcile work and family life, living conditions for women should be improved. Fifteen years after the Beijing Platform was adopted, Mexico recognized that significant challenges remained.  “We must reinforce our resolve and join efforts to achieve full equality between men and women in all spheres of our lives”, she said.


FRANÇOISE HETTO-GAASCH, Minister for Equal Opportunities of Luxembourg, said that to implement the commitments made in Beijing and at the Assembly’s twenty-third special session, Luxembourg in 2006 had set up an institutional structure on women’s empowerment and a national gender equality plan of action, and since 2009, Government programmes were focused on that.  An administration in charge of gender equality coordinated political action.  Other ministers worked to ensure implementation of the policies in their respective political departments.  Gender mainstreaming and positive action were essential.  Luxembourg’s Government had instituted mandatory training courses on gender equality for all state and local Government personnel.  A national gender equality plan of action would be studied and monitored.  Its results would be included in Norway’s next periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.


She said that the situation of immigrants and asylum seekers would be analyzed.  Schooling and professional training would be reviewed to assess the situation’s impact on gender.  She supported the declaration of the Human Rights Council on equal opportunity for immigrants.  To implement it, Luxembourg had worked to train personnel and magistrates about immigrants’ rights.  Key unemployment statistics would be disaggregated by sex to combat unemployment, particularly among youth.  Businesses would use statistics to ensure equal salaries for men and women.  Perpetrators of domestic violence would be subjected to restraining orders.  In 2008, Luxembourg set up protection structures for victims of human trafficking.  A gender dimension was taken into account in all cooperation projects.  She supported the declaration that dealt with violence against women, which had been adopted yesterday by the francophonie meeting.  A gender entity in the United Nations should be set up as soon as possible.


ESTHER MURUGI MATHENGE, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Development of Kenya, associating herself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and the African Group, highlighted Kenya Vision 2030, the country’s development blueprint.  Since the 2005 review, Kenya had accelerated implementation of the Beijing Platform.  While absolute poverty had dropped over the years, income inequalities remained high, at 45.9 per cent.  The Government had addressed that issue through the establishment of the Women’s Enterprise Fund and the Social Protection Fund, among others.  Kenya had developed a gender policy in education to ensure implementation of gender equality measures.  Free primary education had boosted girl’s enrolment at the primary school level, where gender parity had been achieved.


On violence against women, she said Kenya had redrafted gender responsive laws, including the family protection bill of 2009, and developed a National Framework Towards Response and Prevention of Gender-Based Violence.  In addition, all labour laws had been brought into conformity with the International Labour Organization conventions and recommendations.  The Employment Act had granted women three months maternity leave with full pay, and men paternity leave for two weeks.  Women ministers had increased from three in 2003, to six.  In closing, she proposed that the dates for the Commission be changed so that future sessions were held after International Women’s Day.


MARA CARFAGNA, Minister of Equal Opportunities, Italy, said her country used the Beijing Platform and principles of mainstreaming, gender equality and women’s empowerment as a basis for its policies.  It had appointed a Minister for Equal Opportunities to ensure their proper coordination and enactment.  This year was a critical time for the future of gender policies since it marked a recovery from the economic crisis, which had affected women harshly.  Sixty per cent of the world’s poor were women.  One of the main causes of female poverty was unemployment.  It was crucial to increase women’s presence in formative training and to address the issue of training segregation.  A big obstacle to women’s entry into the work force was the lack of social infrastructure to balance family and work life.  Last December, Italy’s Government drafted a plan to include women in the workplace, which envisaged joint collaboration between the Ministries of Equal Opportunities and Labour.  The plan aimed to increase female employment through tax benefits and programmes co-financed by the European Union’s structural funds.


She said that Italy had also set up a $50 million plan to fund vouchers for training and employment, domestic daycare for working mothers and other initiatives.  Those funds would support policies to balance work and family life for freelancers and independent workers.   The Italian cooperation system was particularly attentive to gender policies.  Violence against women was a violation of human rights.  During its Group of Eight (G-8) presidency, Italy had hosted a conference that denounced all forms of gender-based violence.  The conference’s conclusions had brought calls for a new era of international cooperation and greater collaboration among Governments to end it.   She and colleagues from Egypt and Senegal would host an event aimed at ending female genital mutilation.  


NYAMKO SABUNI, Minister for Integration and Equality of Sweden, supporting the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said the adoption of the Beijing Platform had raised the bar for Governments across the world.  Thanks to it, women’s rights had been better implemented in State policies.  There were many reasons to be proud.  However, there were several areas of concern.  Women were still being forced into trafficking, prostitution and under-aged marriage.  They were being beaten, mutilated and killed, and denied opportunities to be educated and to work.  That was true for all continents.  Why?  There was no simple explanation:  different ideologies provided different answers.


In that context, she focused on the role of religion and culture.  Discrimination could never be tolerated as part of a religious or cultural context.  The two affected each other, with the end result that pressured women and girls and ultimately punished misperceived behaviour.  Female genital mutilation occurred to about 3 million girls a year in Africa alone.  Such examples were the end results of traditions that reinforced women’s inferior position.  She highlighted two concerns.  First, personnel deployed in peacekeeping missions represented the United Nations founding values, and dialogue was needed on ethical guidelines.  Second, women and girls had the right to decide issues concerning their own bodies and sexuality.  Also, women and men must have access to affordable primary health care and services.


JOJUHAINA SULTAN SEIF EL-ISSA, Vice Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, Qatar, confirmed her country’s commitment to the Beijing goals and the outcome of the Assembly’s twenty-third special session.  In 2009, the Qatari Government had set up a national commission to prepare the country’s first periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on implementing the Convention.  In was continuously reviewing, developing and renewing legislation relevant to women and the family, housing and employment.  It had adopted a comprehensive education policy based on equal opportunity for both genders.  Thanks to efforts to increase the number of female students enrolled in science programmes at the University of Qatar, and other initiatives for women’s education, the number of female university students had risen to 7,977 in the 2007‑2008 period.   The Government had set up the “Education Above All” institution in 2009, which worked to protect, support and promote education during times of conflict and crisis.


She said her Government had also set up the Supreme Council for Health, which provided integrated health-care services, including primary and special care and maternity care for women.  It had reduced the under-five mortality rate from 10.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005, to 9.53 deaths in 2008.  The maternal mortality rate had also fallen, from 22.38 per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 11.62 per 100,000 live births in 2008.  The Government had also set up a clinic for early screening of breast and cervical cancer.  Additionally, it had adopted policies to end violence against women.  It had set up the Qatar Foundation for Child and Women Protection and the Qatar Foundation to Combat Human Trafficking.  People had access to hotlines to address cases of violence.


GLORIA RUBIN, Minister for Woman Affairs of Paraguay, aligning herself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, the Rio Group and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said her Government was pleased that the Cancun Declaration included a chapter on gender, which took note of gender mainstreaming.  For its part, Paraguay had adopted a traditional monetary transfer system, and while she defended the concept -- thus far, 20,000 families had been reached -- she was concerned about the underlying strategies, questioning whether they really empowered women. She also asked about men’s responsibilities.


In other areas, she said contraception and family planning were now within the Health Ministry’s budget.  Primary health care and childbirth were now free.  Combating violence against women and human trafficking were flagship programmes of the Women’s Ministry, and a media campaign was in place that included a “Silence Kills” initiative of the President.  However, there was only one centre to help women victims of violence and one to help trafficking victims.  Paraguay must do more.  A law created in 2000 to combat domestic violence should be taken from the realm of civil law into that of criminal law.  The session’s declaration should call on Governments to strengthen gender mainstreaming in national institutions.


DONATAS JANKAUSKAS, Minister of Social Security and Labour, Lithuania, said progress had been made in all 12 areas of the Beijing Platform, but more efforts were needed in some areas to close the gender gap.  Gender equality was not just a women’s issue; it was also a men’s issue.  Gender equality was needed to benefit all.  Lithuania had a long-standing tradition of women’s equality and empowerment.  It had conducted systematic work towards gender equality, which had led to positive achievements in critical areas.  The highest political posts in the country were held by women:  the presidency; Speaker of the Parliament; and the Minister of Defence.  The women’s unemployment rate was lower than that of men, which had contributed to women’s economic independence.  Strategic measures had been implemented to combat violence against women, and a law on protection against domestic violence had recently been drafted.


He noted that Lithuania hosted the European UnionInstitute for Gender Equality, which opened in 2009.  Lithuania had integrated the feedback and recommendations from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women into national policy.   It had adopted a gender mainstreaming approach and was systematically implementing gender equality into national policy.  It had created concrete measures to combat gender inequality.  It focused on good governance and well-functioning institutional mechanisms towards that goal.  He welcomed the consensus resolution of the General Assembly on strengthening institutional arrangements for supporting gender equality, and he looked forward to its rapid implementation.  Every United Nations Member State would benefit greatly from a new gender entity.  He stressed the importance of international cooperation and the sharing of best practices.


LORETTA BUTLER-TURNER, Minister of State for Social Development of the Bahamas, aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, reaffirmed her country’s full commitment to the outcome of the General Assembly’s twenty-third session.  Her Government had undertaken initiatives aimed at achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.  A review of labour laws had been conducted to bring them in line with international standards, and creative approaches were used to address poverty.  Legislation on child protection and trafficking in persons had been enacted, and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children had been ratified.


On HIV/AIDS, she said progress had been made in addressing the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, which remained a best practice in the region.  Her Government continued to condemn and outlaw domestic and sexual violence, notably by amending 1991 legislation to allow for stiffer penalties for sexual offences, such as rape, with up to life imprisonment for a first offence.  Violence against women was unacceptable under any circumstance and would not be tolerated.  A gender assessment had been conducted, with the help of Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).  It would significantly contribute to the development of a gender policy.  The Bahamas had submitted its previously outstanding periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.


PAIK HEE YOUNG, Minister for Gender Equality, Republic of Korea, said that since the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Republic of Korea had created comprehensive, systematic steps for women’s advancement, including the Framework Act on Women’s Development and the Basic Plan for Women’s Policies.  The Ministry for Gender Equality had made efforts to create jobs for women, abolish discriminatory practices, and establish gender equality in families, the workplace and society in general.  It had worked to strengthen gender mainstreaming policies to ensure gender equality.  The Government had introduced gender impact assessments in 2004 and used them in 10 pilot projects managed by nine Government bodies.  Since then, more Government agencies had opted to use assessments.  By 2009, the number of projects undergoing assessment in Government bodies was 1,908 projects in 298 bodies.  Gender budgeting had begun in 2010, after the enactment of the 2006 National Finance Act.  This year, gender responsive budgeting was applied to 195 projects, in the amount of 7.3144 trillion Korean won. 


She said her Government planned to reorganize the Ministry of Gender Equality into the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family to implement women’s policies for the general public in a more comprehensive manner.  The launch of the new ministry on 19 March would enable the Republic of Korea to open a new era in which men and women were partners in the family and in society.  It would also lead to greater synergy as the ministry’s functions were strengthened.  An integrated support system and prevention measures aimed to end violence against women.  In 2008, the Government had launched a comprehensive plan for the protection of children and women.  It had established measures, such as quotas, to encourage women’s employment and more women to become professors, school principals and scientists, in order to correct current imbalances in those areas.


NOLUTHANDO MAYENDE-SIBIYA, Minister for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities of South Africa, aligning herself with the Africa Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said her Government had just completed its own 15-year review of the implementation of its post-apartheid transformation agenda.  That review and a broader societal consultative process had informed the establishment of her Ministry, which would ensure effective planning mechanisms and monitoring and evaluation of Government programmes.  It recognized the need to enhance State capacity to mainstream gender.


She supported the consolidation of the four United Nations gender entities into a single entity, which would help strengthen the Organization’s work on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  In South Africa, a largely rural country, the Government’s focus was on ensuring that rural communities could access economic opportunities and sustainable development.  Agricultural support was provided to rural women to enable them to cultivate land for subsistence and commercial purposes.  Additional efforts to improve women’s quality of life were being realized through increased spending on education; health care -- including enhanced response to HIV/AIDS; universal access to basic services like water, sanitation; and fighting crime.  Violence against women and girls remained a major concern and South Africa was at an advanced stage of developing a framework to address that problem.


HALA LATOUF, Minister for Social Development, Jordan, said her country had made great strides in fulfilling the Beijing Platform and the Millennium Development Goals.  Jordan had ratified seven key international human rights treaties.  It had withdrawn its reservation to paragraph 4 of Article 15 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, as part of national efforts to combat discrimination against women.  But more must be done in that regard.  No country had yet succeeded in eliminating all forms of gender discrimination, and Jordan was no exception.  King Abdullah II had described violence against women as a form of “sabotage” that should have no place in Jordan.  That stance set standards on women’s issues and outlined goals.  Women could already be seen in greater numbers in parliament, ministries, the judiciary, the armed forces and the police, and they had assumed very senior posts in public office and the private sector.  The quota system was bolstering women’s election to the legislature and municipal councils, and the draft election law was expected to result in more women in government posts.


She said that the Personal Status Law had been consistently reviewed to give women greater rights and protection.  The review should result in giving women the ability, among other things, to seek divorce without jeopardizing their economic rights.  The age of consent for marriage had been changed to 18.  The draft law would also grant women more custody rights over their children.  The Government recently approved comprehensive legislation to combat human trafficking, especially of women and children.  Jordan had created shelters for women and girl victims of violence, and a help line had been set up for reporting cases.  A special criminal tribunal had also been set up to address so-called “honour crimes”.  The effort was under way to strengthen punishment of male family members who committed such heinous crimes. 


ÁRNI PÁLL ÁRNASON, Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security of Iceland, said that while progress had been made, there was a risk that the global economic and financial crisis would further disadvantage women, which underscored the importance of the effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform. In Iceland, last year for the first time, a woman had been appointed Prime Minister, the number of men and women in Government had become equal and women’s representation in Parliament had risen to 43 per cent.  Such changes had brought the country to the top of the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index for 2009. The challenge was to ensure that both sexes benefited equally from economic measures and that a gender perspective was a primary concern in all policy and decision-making.


On violence against women, he said that last year, Parliament had enacted a law criminalizing the buying of sex. Gender equality was a priority in Iceland’s foreign policy, with a special focus on women’s empowerment, particularly vis-à-vis development cooperation, climate change and peace processes. The creation of a new United Nations gender entity, led by an Under-Secretary-General, would be a very positive step towards an increased focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment. “The work for gender equality is more important than ever,” he said.


SIDÓNIO MONTEIRO, Minister for Youth and Sports of Cape Verde, reminded delegates that the struggle against traditions and prejudice was long and arduous. His Government was focused on adopting political measures to advance gender equality. The Second National Plan on Gender mirrored concerns of the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action, as well as the Millennium Development Goals. The Government had six priorities, among them, education for equality, economic opportunities for women, equal participation in leadership and combating gender-based violence. Compulsory education had increased so that boys and girls had the same access to free education. In secondary education, there was majority participation of girls, and an “Education for All” project had been created.


Regarding health, he said a maternal and child protection programme had given rise to the national programme for reproductive health. Other programmes, such as the one to combat AIDS, had reduced maternal and child mortality, as well as the fertility rate from 4.5 children per woman, in 10 years. As for political participation, quotas had increased women’s participation in Government. Cape Verde was among the highest-ranking countries in the world in that regard. The Government was in the process of approving a special law on gender-based violence and working to examine the incidence of that problem around the country.


ESTHER BYER-SUCKOO, Minister of Youth, Family and Sports of Barbados, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform and aligned it to all United Nations resolutions that emphasized women’s empowerment and equality.  Barbados was focused on four critical areas of the Platform:  women and poverty; gender and HIV/AIDS; violence against women; and women in power and decision-making.  The Government had recently launched a Country Assessment of Living Conditions to provide empirical information on poverty, thus facilitating policies and services to address poverty.  It provided a baseline for measuring effectiveness.  Despite recorded declines in the number of AIDS deaths and the elimination of mother-to-child transmission, Barbados had now adapted its focus on new infections in those aged 16 to 24, particularly girls, which incorporated a behaviour change approach.


She said her Government had just completed a survey on domestic violence to create a national policy aimed at the elimination of that practice.  It had facilitated the establishment of a non-governmental organization of domestic violence victims and was improving strategies for perpetrators, which included rehabilitation.  A media campaign had been launched to change the cultural norm that accepted domestic violence as a private affair.  While the number of women elected to Parliament had declined in the last general election, the Government had added women to the Cabinet, Senate and Statutory Boards and Companies.  Her party had also pledged that by 2016, 50 per cent of its slate of candidates would be women.  Barbados was reviewing the proposed gender entity of the United Nations and, while it commended the effort, it wanted assurance that the outcome would not prove more cumbersome for Member States to receive support.


NOUZHA SKALLI, Minister for Social Development, Family and Solidarity of Morocco, said the economic and financial crisis, lack of financial security and climate change had at once harmed women and damaged gender equality.  To achieve a just world in which women participated, Morocco was working to instil standards of fairness and gender equality.  It had committed to working with the Union for the Mediterranean, the Arab League and French-speaking countries, among others, towards progress in that regard.  It was also committed to implementing a human rights agenda, which specifically drew attention to women’s rights. That provided Morocco with an opportunity to renew its commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Plan for Action.


She said Morocco had developed a family code based on equality between spouses, as well as a national code, allowing women to pass their nationality on to children born to a foreign spouse.  Since 2002, a national strategy had addressed different forms of violence.  Morocco was also a Millennium Development Goals pilot fund country.  Additionally, it had carried out the first national survey to examine the prevalence of violence.  Gender parity in the management of local public affairs was a major concern, as was gender-responsive budgeting.  Last year had been a turning point in those fields.


HUSSUN BANU GHAZANFAR, Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs of Afghanistan, said her country had taken up implementation of the Beijing Platform on 23 March 2005, immediately after the Government had sent a delegation to the Beijing Plus 10 meeting.  As such, achievements had been framed within possibilities offered by an ever-changing development platform and political situation.  The country had institutionalized a strong policy framework for gender equality by restoring women’s rights and declaring that women were equal with men.  Also, it had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted six critical gender targets, as well as gender equality as a cross-cutting concern of its national strategy, and mainstreamed gender into subnational governance policy.


“We sent our girls and women back to school, addressed their health concerns and implemented capacity development and economic support interventions,” she continued. Afghanistan had also adopted a 10-year action plan for women, which served as the main vehicle for the Government to implement its commitments in that regard.  The international conference on Afghanistan, held last month in London, had drawn up an internationally-backed platform for her Government in the next five years.  She reiterated the State’s commitments to gender equality and respect for human rights in that platform.  Violence against women, which used to be a private matter, was now recognized as a public policy concern, and Afghanistan had set up a multi-donor fund to assist civil society in undertaking projects to respond to such violence in its communities.  On the issue of reconciliation and reintegration, Afghanistan was working to ensure that women were fully involved in the peace process.  The main problems were limited physical infrastructure, stunted human capacity, social polarization, unstable peace, obstructive traditions and fragile political situations.  Despite that, Afghanistan would continue to work for women’s empowerment and gender equality. 


GABRIELE HEINISCH-HOSEK, Federal Minister for Women and Civil Service of Austria, aligning herself with the European Union, said there were still serious differences between men and women in the labour market, a main concern of her Government.  While women’s participation in the labour market had strongly increased in Austria in recent decades, that increase was due to an increase in part-time work.  Unfortunately, the stereotype of the male breadwinner remained a contemporary phenomenon, due in part to a lack of childcare facilities.  As a result, women were concentrated in a few low-paid areas, which accounted for high wage differences.


On violence against women, she said that since 1997, Austria had taken a lead role on an international level with the entry into force of the first Protection against Violence Act, which enabled victims to stay at home and forced offenders to leave the households and neighbourhoods of the endangered person, with the latter also being held accountable by the State.  With the second such act, which entered into force in June 2009, a new statutory offence in cases of long-lasting violent relationships had been introduced. Still, the goal must be to prevent such violence.  As a Security Council member, Austria had sought to actively contribute to improve the protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence and to increase women’s participation at all decision-making levels in conflict resolution and peace processes.  In 1995, women in Beijing had gathered with one goal:  to enhance women’s situation around the world.  Fifteen years later, challenges remained in the implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000).  Austria stood ready to work with all interested delegations.


NILCEA FREIRE, Minister and Special Secretary of Policies for Women of Brazil, said that since the creation of the Special Secretary in 2003, two national conferences had been held in Brazil.  They had led to the first and second national plan of policies for women.  The Secretary’s mandate had been consistently amplified since then.  Brazil adopted in August 2007 the Maria da Penha law on violence against women.  The Government had implemented the National Pact on Fighting Violence against Women, which had led to the creation of a national network of public structures to help women victims of violence.  The Government had also provided training for more than 50,000 public workers in the health, social and public security sectors that dealt directly with the victims.  In the last three years, such networks had been expanded, and $500,000 would be invested in the programme in 2011.


On health care, she said that the progressive reduction of maternal mortality rates in Brazil had been an important achievement.  Brazil had created a national pact on the subject and it expected to curb maternal mortality by 15 per cent by 2011.  It had developed an Integrated Plan to Combat the Feminization of AIDS in partnership with UNFPA, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UNIFEM.  The Pro-Gender Equity Programme involved 136 public and private organizations.  It awarded organizations that developed new human resource concepts and practices to promote gender equality.  Thanks to a partnership between the Government and civil society, 30 per cent of all electoral post vacancies had been reserved for women.


OLIVIA MUCHENA, Minister for Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development of Zimbabwe, said the Government had put in place policies and programmes to support gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The Constitution prohibited gender-based discrimination.  Zimbabwe had enacted several gender responsive laws to promote the legal status of women.  They protected rights concerning inheritance, maternity rights, equal pay for equal work, and the right of women to participate in public life.  It also criminalized sexual offences, and a domestic violence law aimed to protect victims.   The Government had set up one-stop centres to ensure that survivors of domestic violence received health care, psycho-social support and legal aid.  But full implementation of the law was fraught with challenges such as lack of enforcement.  Plus, domestic violence often went unreported.  The lack of sex disaggregated data made it difficult to enforce relevant laws. 


She said her Government had made strides in promoting women’s participation in politics and decision-making.  Women held key Government posts, such as Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, Senate President and Judge President of the High Court.  The Government had set up the Women’s Development Fund and a Community Development Fund to finance economic empowerment projects for women.  Under the land reform programme, a special quota required that 20 per cent of land was reserved for women.   The Government was also making concerted efforts to increase women’s access to productive resources in key sectors such as agriculture, industry and commerce.


FIAME NAOMI MATA’AFA, Minister for Women, Community and Social Development of Samoa, aligning herself with the Pacific Island Forum, said several developments had taken place to advance women’s status in her country, including a focus on strengthening the legal and policy frameworks.  Samoa had draft domestic violence legislation, and the Samoa Law Reform Commission had begun groundwork on drafting issue papers to inform that reform.  The draft national policy for women was being reviewed to create a more succinct document that spoke to priority issues.  The Men against Violence Advocacy Group, formed in 2008, had officially begun its work, and, in the area of health, a special parliamentary advocacy committee on health promotion had been established to provide a platform for in-depth discussion on health concerns.


On women’s participation in public life, she noted recent appointments in Government, which had seen women in senior leadership positions.  The changes in leadership of several Government ministries provided an opportunity for policy advice to the Cabinet.  She was pleased that, although there were only four women in Parliament of 49 members, three of those women were Ministers of Cabinet.  While progress had been made in implementing the Beijing Platform, much work remained to ensure that such developments for women were sustained.  There was a need for a strategic policy framework informed by gender statistics.  Better monitoring and evaluation was also needed, as was continued support from regional and international networks, and development partners.  Financial and technical support from those partners was also required.


MARJORY MICHEL, Minister for the Condition and Rights of Women, Haiti, expressed Haiti’s solidarity with Chile, and thanked everyone for their support and condolences following the 12 January earthquake in her country.  She urged them to take account of the specific needs of Haitian women and girls in the reconstruction effort.  Haiti undertook to respect and promote gender equality, in line with the Beijing goals.   Her Ministry was in a better position to bring about social and legal change towards a society free of discrimination.  There was support from civil society and women’s groups, and the Ministry had made gender equality its main focus.  The Government had introduced gender rights into the penal code, and in 2005, a State decree on sexual aggression made rape a crime.


She said that a Government protocol sought to keep girls in schools.  Thanks to efforts by her Ministry and the Ministry of Education, half of all school scholarships now were given to girls.  There were programmes on family health and maternal mortality.  Forty-two per cent to 44 per cent of women were heads of households.  Most worked in the informal sector and they were vulnerable to violence.  Haiti had elected its second female Prime Minister.  Eight women had been elected to Parliament in the last election, but that number was far from the target of women occupying 30 per cent of all parliamentary seats.


FERHAT DINOSHA, Minister for Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro, aligning himself with the European Union, said his Government recognized the significant role of non-governmental organizations that contributed highly to advancing women’s rights.  In the last decade, Montenegro had made progress on gender equality, with efforts to integrate a gender component into key government processes.  Improvements had been made in the adoption of legislation, including the Constitution in 2007, and the law on gender equality.  Montenegro was working to engender national and local strategies to comply with international standards.


He said that the 2008-2012 Action Plan represented the framework for development and implementation of gender equality policy in eight areas of concern, in line with the Beijing Platform.  Gender equality mechanisms had worked on women’s advancement in education, health, violence against women, among other areas, he said, and had achieved success in many aspects.  Gender equality was increasingly recognized as a human rights issue.  However, there was much work to be done, and in Montenegro, women remained under-represented in decision-making in Parliament.  That would be among the Government’s future priorities.  Domestic violence and violence against women was of high importance, and the Government would work to combat those problems.  Continued efforts were also needed in the area of labour and employment.


HELENA GUERGIS, Minister of State of the Status of Women, Canada, said her country had experienced solid progress towards full gender equality.  Its plan focused on supporting women’s economic security, ending violence against them and promoting their involvement in democracy and leadership.  It had already implemented many elements of the plan and experienced solid progress, including increases in education, reduced poverty, increased economic participation and increased power and decision-making.  For example, in 2007 women had attained 61 per cent of all university degrees.  In 2009, for the first time, women had accounted for the majority of the workforce at 50.9 per cent, up from 47 per cent in 2004.  Women were starting small businesses at twice the rate of men, and their average income had increased almost 17 per cent since 2002. 


She said that, beginning in January 2011, the Government would put into effect new regulations that gave self-employed Canadians access to employment insurance benefits, as well as maternity, parental, sickness and compassionate care.  That was a major step forward for women and gender equality.  But more must be done.  There had been 38,000 police-reported incidents of family violence in 2009, and 83 per cent of the victims had been women.   The Government was working to improve the situation of aboriginal women in Canada, who were more vulnerable to poverty, violence and discrimination.  Canada was committed to helping women and girls overseas.  Its efforts in Afghanistan had enabled thousands of girls to attend school.   Prime Minister Stephen Harper would host this year’s G-8 Summit, and during that event he would champion a major initiative to improve the health of women and children in the world’s most vulnerable regions. 


JIKO LUVENI, Minister for Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, said policies for women had been incorporated into the second Women’s Plan of Action (2010-2019) to advance efforts to attain the goals of the Beijing Platform.  Fiji was taking steps to introduce a new constitution in 2012, which would, for the first time in its history, provide an electoral system of one-person-one vote, without regard to race or creed.  Fiji would hold general elections in 2014 under that constitution.  The country had also adopted new laws aimed at protecting women, notably a domestic violence law that criminalized violence committed in a family; a criminal law, which incorporated the Rome Statute requirements; and an employment law, which ensured gender equality in employment.


On other matters, she said that, of the 24,000 beneficiaries of Fiji’s micro-finance scheme, 90 per cent were women.  Fiji’s target of having 30 per cent representation of women on all boards and committees was slowly progressing.  At the community level, more than 300 women, mostly in rural areas, had become members of hospital boards since 2008.  In advancing such issues, formal education was fundamental.  To sustain Fiji’s 99 per cent school enrolment, the Government offered free tuition up to the twelfth year of education and was working to provide free textbooks by 2012 for all primary schoolchildren.


NDEYE KHADY DIOP, Minister for Family, Senegal, shed light on the national strategy for gender equity and its many achievements.  The strategy took into account the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform.  It had worked to improve the lot of women in terms of education, training, health, and ending violence against them.  Thirty per cent of the national budget was allocated to education.  Education programmes encouraged girls to stay in school.  Concerning health care, prenatal health consultations were free, as was care for obstetric fistula, testing for HIV/AIDS and programmes to prevent mother-to-child transmission. 


She said Senegal had adopted a law that prohibited all forms of violence against women, including female genital mutilation.  Despite such advances, more must be done.  There was still a gap between the well-being and status of women in rural areas versus urban areas.  Senegal would participate in a special event on Wednesday on ending female genital mutilation.  The country had a newly-created agency for women that had been set up with support from UNIFEM.  She expressed solidarity with the women of Haiti and Chile.


SARVA DEV PRASAD OJHA, Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare of Nepal, said his country attached great importance to women’s advancement and had undergone a fundamental transformation in the last year.  The Constituent Assembly, elected in April 2008, was among the most-inclusive assemblies in the world in terms of representation of people from various ethnic and marginalized groups.  The Government had adopted a rights-based approach to women’s social, economic and political empowerment.  Women’s rights had been guaranteed as human rights in the 2007 interim Constitution.


Further, he said it was constitutionally mandatory that at least one third of people in elected bodies be women.  Regarding violence against women, Nepal had designated 2010 as the “Year against Gender-based Violence” and developed a national plan of action to implement it.  It had taken several legal, administrative and other measures to end all forms of discrimination and violence against women.  Despite significant challenges, Nepal was making steady and remarkable progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals related to poverty alleviation, child survival and maternal mortality reduction.  In the past decade, the Government had halved the number of maternal deaths and deaths of children under five.


ABENA ONDOUA MARIE THERESE, Minister for Women Affairs, Cameroon, shed light on the national plan for gender equality and its seven priority areas.  In 2004, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was reorganized to better address women’s problems.  In 1995, there were only two women members of Government.  In 2010, that number had increased to six.  There were now 25 women members of Parliament.  Twenty-eight per cent of magistrates were women.  Cameroon had signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and translated it into local languages.  Workshops had been organized by judicial staff to raise awareness about the Convention and judges had already applied it in courts of law.  Cameroon had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Several important legal documents were to be finalized in the near future.


She highlighted efforts to increase women’s access to resources.  The department of economic advancement of women and family worked in close association with non-governmental organizations.  Funds and equipment were allocated to individual women.  Further assistance was provided to help women build managerial skills.  There were training programmes in information and communications technology.  Training by the African Institute for Computer Sciences had assisted nearly 70,000 women.  Credit programmes existed for women who could not access the formal banking system.  Anti-retroviral therapies were made available to HIV patients.  But challenges remained.  There was a high illiteracy rate among women and young girls.  Cameroon still had a patriarchal society.  There was a lack of respect for the per cent quota for women in public office.


HIJRAN HUSEYNOVA, Chairperson of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of Azerbaijan, said her country had shown strong support for the Beijing Platform by creating programmes aimed at achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.  New legislation had been adopted.  After the adoption of the law on State guarantees of gender equality, all relevant amendments were made to other legislative acts in accordance with that law.  A gender budgeting system had been introduced, which directly impacted gender equality.  There was no sphere in which women were not represented.  There were women judges, generals, oil workers and deputies of Parliament.  National Congresses of Azerbaijani women and town hall meetings of female lawyers and journalists, among others, were continually organized in all regions.  Such events had become important in showcasing women’s potential.


She said significant progress had been made in various areas.  The number of women representatives in municipalities had jumped from 4 per cent in 2004 to 27 per cent in 2009, with 302 women elected to high positions.  Despite the global economic crisis, all social programmes had continued.  A gender aspect had been incorporated into poverty reduction and sustainable development strategies.  Drawing attention to women refugees and internally displaced persons, she said her Government gave priority attention to those problems and had implemented measures to ensure refugees’ access to education, employment, health care and full integration in society.


ANA ISABEL MORALES, Minister of Government, Nicaragua, shed light on Government plans for gender equality in line with the Beijing Platform, the women’s Convention and the Belem do Para Convention.  Nicaragua had set up a model of citizens’ power that gave women direct help in decision-making.  In 2008, Nicaragua had elected 23 female mayors and 100 deputy mayors in 153 municipalities.  There were 19 main and 15 supplementary female representatives in Parliament.  Women held 45 per cent of executive-level Government posts. 


She said her country also offered free education.  It had dramatically reduced illiteracy to less than 5 per cent in 2009.  In partnership with the Cuban Government, it had provided literacy programmes for 235,148 women.  It had family values programmes.  The “Love” programme focused on social well-being.  Thanks to assistance from Thailand, it worked to ensure that boys and girls could live a happy life.  Nicaragua was also developing a model of family and community health.  Maternal mortality had dropped from 90 per cent in 2006 to 64 per cent in 2009.   The child mortality rate had fallen from 35 per cent in 2006 to 23 per cent last year.  There were innovative strategies to combat violence against women and shelters for women victims of violence and human trafficking.  She appealed to all countries to sign on to the Global Plan of Action to end Trafficking in Persons.


SOPHIA SIMBA, Minster of State, President’s Office, Good Governance, United Republic of Tanzania, aligning herself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China and the African Group, said her Government was fully committed to implementing the Beijing Platform.  The attainment of gender equality and women’s empowerment was no longer open for negotiation.  Rather, the issue at hand was the implementation of actions to achieve them.  Gender equality objectives had been mainstreamed in Government policies, including poverty reduction strategies.  To economically empower women, the Government had worked to improve the business environment and build positive images of businesswomen.  To facilitate access to financial services, a women’s bank had been created to provide soft loans to women.  The Government also had enacted the Land Act No. 5 and Village Land Act No. 4 of 1999 to provide for, among other things, the right of land ownership for men and women.


She said that women’s participation in decision-making had also significantly improved.  The Constitution provided for 30 per cent special seats for women in Parliament and in the House of Representatives.  The election law in local councils provided for one third women councillors.  Internationally, her country continued to fulfil its obligations related to women’s advancement and had submitted its reports to treaty bodies.  Her Government had also been active in regional peace processes.  Women should be at the centre of peace negotiations, and she called for the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008) and 1888 (2009).


SARAH SAYIFWANDA, Minister of Gender and Women in Development, Zambia, said Zambia was committed to eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination.  The Government had amended the penal code to strengthen penalties for perpetrators of violence.  It developed specific legislation, and an action plan, aimed at strengthening protections for women against such violence, which had increased recently.  It had also enacted the Anti-Human Trafficking Act in 2008, which enabled the prosecution of human traffickers and committed the Government to provide protection services to victims. 


She said her Government had created the Citizens Economic Empowerment Fund with a specific mandate to ensure that women were given preference to funding, in order to promote women’s economic empowerment and contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  The national budget for 2010 allocated extra funds for women’s economic empowerment in the national gender machinery.  The financial sector had joined the Government to provide women with better access to credit and financial services.  Financial institutions were engaging more female entrepreneurs to give women better access to such services.  The Land Reform Programme called for 30 per cent of land titles to go to women and measures to increase women’s access to titled land.  Zambia had made progress to achieve universal primary education by ensuring free education.  The Government was also scaling up interventions to bridge the enrolment gap between boys and girls at the secondary school level.


MOULATY EL MOCTAR, Minister of Social Affairs, Infancy and Family of Mauritania, said her country had consolidated women’s participation in political life.  The Government had promulgated laws in the area of employment and made education mandatory.  It had established a level of 20 per cent of candidates for Parliament -- and had achieved a 19 per cent level.  The Government had consolidated women’s presence in regional diplomatic posts and in other organizations.  There were also sectoral programmes, notably in health and poverty reduction, which worked to address women’s needs. 


Further, she said, there were now six women in Government, including women in foreign affairs and cooperation.  Despite its results, there was much to be done in Mauritania and there were many challenges.  Her country was working to combat exploitation and violence against women, and to facilitate women’s access to decision-making.  She reaffirmed that the Beijing Platform was a frame of reference for the international community, and she called on donors to help Mauritania achieve its gender goals.  Mauritania had submitted a “formulaire” containing results achieved.  It would make every effort to uphold its regional and international commitments, notably the Beijing Platform for Action.


LINDA AMALIA SARI GUMELAR, State Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, Indonesia, said her Government had carried out several steps to protect poor women and women vulnerable to poverty due to the global financial crisis.  The federal budget had been increased substantially every year.  Women had benefited from programmes such as National Community Empowerment Programmes and micro-, small- and mid-sized credit schemes with no collateral and low interest.  Recently, the Coordinating Minister of People’s Welfare had issued a decree establishing a coordination team to oversee the National Movement on the Completion of Nine Year Mandatory Basic Education and Overcoming Illiteracy.  That would further contribute to the decline in women’s illiteracy.


She said that the budget for health had increased annually, and the Government had passed a health law last year.  Maternal mortality had fallen from 307 per 100,000 live births to 228 per 100,000 lives births.  The Government had also created guidelines to indicate the minimum standards for integrated services for women and child victims of violence.  The domestic violence law had increased public awareness, especially among women, taking into account that violence against them was a human rights violation that must be stopped.  Five women cabinet ministers led ministries dealing with women’s empowerment and child protection, health, trade, finance and national planning.


NAKADAMA RUKIA ISANGA, Minister of State for Gender and Culture of Uganda, said her Government had seen progress in strengthening policy and legal frameworks to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.  For example, in 2009, laws on domestic violence and the prohibition of female genital mutilation and human trafficking had been enacted.  Functional adult literacy services -- 70 per cent of whose beneficiaries were women -- had helped reduce illiteracy. Sixty-nine per cent of the population lived above the poverty line, versus 62 per cent in 2003.  The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate had been contained at 6 per cent, though the epidemic continued to exhibit a female face.


She said that despite such progress, there were still high maternal mortality rates that threatened efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  In the past two decades, the maternal mortality ratio remained high, despite the recent drop from 505 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1998, to 435 per 100,000 in 2006.  Uganda reaffirmed its commitment to the seven strategic areas agreed by African Ministers in Banjul, Gambia in 2009, contained in the Banjul Declaration, as well as to implementing the Beijing Platform.  In closing, she thanked the Secretary-General for the progress made in the creation of a composite gender entity and expressed confidence that, once established, it would add to the efforts being made to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.  She urged the Commission to conclude discussions on outstanding issues related to that entity.


PENEHUPIFO POHAMBA, First lady of Namibia, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her Government had spent significant resources to set up a national legal framework for women’s advancement.  The Constitution and various laws guaranteed gender equality and recognized the need to promote women’s advancement.  Regarding gender, poverty and rural development, the Government had put in place policies and legislation to ensure that women had the same rights as men to land ownership and inheritance.


She explained that, in order to create a gender balance in education and training, education had been made compulsory and access to public school was free at the primary-school level.  There were more girls than boys attending primary schools.  As for reproductive health, various policies addressed the issue of reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.  Anti-retroviral treatment was free at all Government hospitals and the majority of patients accessing that treatment were female.  In addition, the number of women and child protection units had increased from three to 15 in all thirteen regions.  Those units provided a multisectoral approach to assist victims of gender based violence.  A national “zero tolerance” campaign for such violence had been launched last July.  She thanked Namibia’s development partners and the United Nations for their support in implementing gender-related programmes.


EVA WELSKOP-DEFFAA, Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Germany, said the current global challenges would immediately impact gender equality policy.  The United Nations gender entity should be set up and made operational soon.  The issue of women in armed conflict should be part of gender equality policy.  The Beijing Platform was still the only road map for gender equality.  In Germany, the gross hourly wage paid to women was clearly below that earned by men.  As a result, people relying on a female breadwinner’s income were at greater risk for poverty.  The gainful employment of women and their career advancement opportunities were very important to a family’s economic situation.  Germany was stepping up gender equality policy efforts to make “equal pay for equal work of equal value” and “more women in executive posts” a reality.


She said her country aimed to support women throughout their life cycle to create more parity with men.  It did so by granting parental leave to promote the fair sharing of family tasks during the first year after a couple had a child.  A vocational reintegration programme supported women who wished to re-enter the labour market after a prolonged absence.  Next year, Germany would develop a master plan with binding targets and concrete measures aimed at improving the equal participation of women and men in certain phases of the life cycle.


MAXIM A. TOPILIN, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation, said the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Beijing Platform and the outcome of the General Assembly’s special twenty-third session covered all key issues related to achieving gender equality, and it was important to focus on them now.  States must address the gender impacts of global economic crisis.  For its part, the Russian Federation was determined to make use of women’s potential.  Indeed, women were a powerful driving force for business, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises.  In the Russian Government, women led three key ministries -- for health, economic development and agriculture.


He said his Government was doing everything possible to establish a sustainable demographic situation.  There were measures for neonatal diagnosis, and neonatal centres were being established.  Benefits for women increased upon childbirth.  Also, 2009 had marked the first year that the population had not decreased; in fact, it had increased.  His country attached significance to United Nations activities to prevent violence against women.  Every State should develop its own strategy to combat that scourge.  Before launching a new United Nations gender structure, agreement should be reached at the intergovernmental level.  His Government was open to international dialogue on any gender issue and was preparing to present its sixth and seventh reports to the monitoring Committee of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in July.


PASCAL SMET, Flemish Minister for Education, Youth and Equal Opportunities, Belgium, reaffirmed Belgium’s support for the Beijing Platform.  For the past few years, Belgian efforts had concentrated on strengthening institutional mechanisms to promote gender equality, such as the Commission on Women and Development and the Council for Equal Opportunities.  The Government had set up the Institute for Equality between Women and Men in 2002 and the Walloon Council for the same purpose in 2003.  It supported grants to women’s umbrella organizations.  In 2007 and 2008, all levels of Government had undergone in-depth analysis to reform anti-discrimination legislation in order to better protect individuals.  Most governing bodies had developed ambitious instruments aimed at mainstreaming gender aspects into all policies, through strict legislative measures and action plans.


He said his Government had been monitoring the nationwide gender pay gap since 2006.  Annual reports on that subject had helped authorities to adopt appropriate steps, and online checklists helped employers to use non-sexist job descriptions.  In 2010, Belgium would dedicate 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to official development assistance (ODA).  Within the development cooperation framework, there was clear political will to increase investment in gender equality and women’s empowerment.  In 2008, 60 per cent of the development cooperation budget was “gender responsive”, compared with 50 per cent in 2007.  Belgium had a national action plan to implement Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.   The 2008-2010 action plan to end violence against women illustrated the efficient coordination by various Belgian actors.     


CZESLAW WALEK, Deputy Minister for Human Rights of the Czech Republic, aligning himself with the European Union, discussed his country’s achievements.  The Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, created in 2001, was the basic consultative mechanism advising on governmental policies from a gender perspective.  It had 28 members, half of whom were Government representatives and the other half of whom were civil society representatives and experts on gender issues.  The Council had four committees to deal with reconciliation of work and private life; institutional support for equality between women and men; prevention of domestic violence; and equal representation in politics.


He said that the active promotion of gender equality was a priority.  The Government had adopted a national action plan to implement obligations under the Beijing Platform, which contained seven critical areas.  It also included institutional support for gender equality, gender-based violence and reconciliation of work and private life, among other things.  Enforcing gender equality was a barometer of development of any society.  The greater the gender equality, the higher the satisfaction with life.  States could not revert to “ancient” behaviour and customs that portrayed the obligatory private woman and public man.


NORMA AÑAÑOS CASTILLA, Vice Minster of Women, Peru, said the Beijing Conference and Millennium Development Goals were important milestones in Peru’s efforts to apply public policies on human rights for women, equal opportunity, gender equity and women’s empowerment.  Having a high-level meeting was a valuable opportunity to share lessons learned.  Poverty too often had the face of a woman.  Peru was focusing on giving women access to good education, health services, decision-making power and economic development.  Peru had made considerable progress in public policies in that regard.  Congress had adopted an equal opportunity law that provided a national framework and described machinery that must be used by the public sectors, which were required to report to Congress under that law.  Regular information in that regard ensured that people were held to account. 


She said there had also been changes in the civil code, noting that the family code and many other laws had been adopted in line with the Beijing Platform and Millennium Development Goals.  UNDP had confirmed that progress had been made in Peru to end poverty, which had declined from 23 per cent in 1991 to 12.6 per cent in 2009.  The under-five infant mortality rate had dropped from 50 per cent in 1990 to 18 per cent in 2006.  The Government was also working to ensure improvements in nutrition in young children.  That was crucial to their development.  There was a national day care programme for infants to enable their mothers to join the labour force.  National institutions were doing their part.  She hoped that businesses would become involved as well.  The Government had developed a national programme to end domestic violence, which included emergency shelters and hotlines.  It had also launched programmes to reduce illiteracy among women.  Hopefully, the percentage of illiterate women in the country would be less than 5 per cent by 2011.


NGUYEN THANH HOA, Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs of Viet Nam, said his Government was determined to realize the objectives of the Beijing Platform.  Adoption of the Law on Gender Equality and the Law on Prevention and Combating Domestic Violence, among other legal documents, had laid the foundation for establishing State management agencies for gender equality.  First priority had been given to developing a national strategy on gender equality for 2011-2020.   Viet Nam had one of the highest percentages in Asia of women in the National Assembly -- 25.7 per cent in the 2007-2011 period, an 8 per cent increase over the 1992-1997 period.


Moreover, he said, women also enjoyed strong participation in the labour market, accounting for 49.4 per cent of the total employed workforce.  At the same time, major challenges remained, including a lingering preference for men and the undervaluing of women in rural areas.  New challenges were emerging in the globalization process, including HIV/AIDS prevalence among women and girls, prostitution, and trafficking of women and children.  The immediate tasks required strong political determination and efforts with international partners. The Government would work to effectively enforce the gender equality law, implement the national strategy on gender equality for the 2011-2020 period and continue its efforts to promote the equal rights of women and girls.


ELZA PAIS, Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Portugal, stressed the importance of strengthening the role of women in the environment and land management, which were a critical part of the Beijing Platform.  Portugal was in the process of ensuring gender equality.  The situation of women required special attention.  Recently, Portugal had set up a centre for gender equality, and many legislative steps had been undertaken in recent years.  The gender parity law stated that candidates for local legislative elections and the European Union Parliament should have 30 per cent women candidates.  That statement on gender equality was recently recognized by the Council of Europe.


She said the federal Government was working with local municipalities, and had allocated 83 million euros from now until 2013 to promote citizenship and equality for women and to assist civil society organizations for women.  There were five national plans.  The third plan focused on equality, gender equality and citizenship for the 2007-2010 period.  A programme of action focused on eliminating female genital mutilation.  Another plan focused on ending domestic violence.  There was a zero-tolerance campaign against domestic violence.  In September 2009, Portugal had adopted a domestic violence law that included provisions on prevention, protection and assistance to victims.  Last August, Portugal had joined in implementing Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820.  She supported creation of a gender entity in the United Nations.


MYRNA YAO, Chairperson of the National Commission of the Philippines, said her country recently enacted into law the Magna Carta for Women, the national translation of the women’s Convention.  Her Government had also enacted landmark laws to combat trafficking in persons and domestic violence, and it had organized interagency councils on violence against women to ensure implementation.  Moreover, the Philippines recently signed into law a 2009 measure on climate change, and the national women’s machinery was working to ensure gender mainstreaming on that issue.  There was also better coordination to produce sex-disaggregated data.


Continuing, she said programmes were being monitored by a supreme audit institution to ensure that development plans helped to close gender gaps.  Men were involved in promoting women’s reproductive health.  As a signatory to the Millennium Declaration, the Philippines was paying close attention to the needs of women and children, particularly in the Goal for poverty eradication, among others.  The Government was determined to protect women from the negative impacts of economic crisis; address maternal mortality; rationally address women’s health-care needs; protect children and women in armed conflict; and promote gender-responsive disaster risk management.  She supported the Secretary-General’s proposal for a composite gender entity and expressed hope that a timeline for the selection of an Under-Secretary-General would be made clear.


KADI VIIK, Head of the Gender Equality Department, Ministry of Social Affairs, Estonia, shed light on Estonia’s steps to implement the Beijing Platform.  For example, the gender equality act was adopted in 2004.  An equal opportunity commissioner had been set up.  Efforts focused on continued awareness-raising and public partnerships for gender equality, as well as continued mainstreaming of a gender perspective into other policy areas.  The Government was gathering sex-disaggregated data, and it had conducted in-depth studies on various gender issues.  It guaranteed sexual and reproductive rights.  The Estonian Government also focused nationally and internationally on eliminating violence against women.  Offenders were issued restraining orders.  In 2004, there was one shelter for female victims of violence, whereas today, there were nine.


She said there were also services for victims of trafficking.  They were partly or fully funded by the Government.  Non-governmental organizations had a clear role in implementing gender policies.  There were victim support services.  There was a gender equality programme funded by the Government and the Open Society Institute.  In the next four years, it would be instituted with support from European funds.  There were policy measures to support fatherhood.  Gender equality was a priority in terms of human rights and development cooperation.  Estonia was supporting increased health awareness and skills in Afghanistan, as part of efforts to reduce maternal mortality there. 


FOTINI SIANOU, Special Representative for Gender Equality Issues of Greece, said that 15 years after the Beijing Declaration, women had seen many changes, and not only on the biological level.  “We have so many reasons to be proud,” she asserted, noting that each time she saw a female police officer on the streets of Athens she wanted to cry out “Bravo!”  Today, 53 per cent of those in decision-making positions in Greece’s regions were women.  She had lived to see the day.  She hoped to see the day when her Palestinian sisters could realize a better future for their sons and daughters, and when Turks and Greeks could form a united Cyprus.  There was something so wrong when 500,000 women died due to preventable causes.  There was something equally wrong when honour crimes continued to take women’s lives, and, on a psychological level, prevented girls and women from making their own choices.  “We can’t be healthy when our sisters and brothers are in pain,” she said.  “We need gender equality and we need justice.”


Noting that a new socialist Government had been elected in October 2009, she said that the President’s perspective on gender equality was well known.  His political will had been made clear amid the biggest economic crisis in 36 years.  There were nine women in his cabinet.  There were also nine women out of 13 gender secretaries for the administrative regions, the highest percentage in Greece’s history.  Trade unions were struggling for the fair distribution of the costs of the crisis.  In closing, she reaffirmed Greece’s commitment to implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.


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For information media • not an official record