Empowering women key to eliminating poverty, UN rights official tells committee

1 March 2007 –

Women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming are key to tackling challenges, such as poverty, discrimination, educational gaps, high maternal mortality, disease and other ills, a senior United Nations official has told the world body’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Despite several promising steps, including increased provision of microcredit and the accession of several States to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), “challenges remain,” Rachel N. Mayanja, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, said at a meeting yesterday.

“Continued discrimination against the girl child, violence against girls and women, and low representation of women in decision-making” still pose major problems, Ms. Mayanja said.

The Special Adviser also urged the Commission to examine the plight of women, widowed by HIV/AIDS, conflicts and natural disasters, and their children. Many widows do not remarry, are not employed and isolated from society, resulting in poverty disproportionately affecting women.

Among the almost 50 speakers at the meetings was Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), who called for the implementation and monitoring of provisions of treaties targeted at empowering women.

Another speaker, Carmen Moreno, Director of the UN International Research and Training Institute of Women (INSRAW), asserted that women must have greater decision-making power at all levels, be it in the household or in politics, to allow both Governments and societies to be more responsive to their needs.

The Commission commenced its 51st session at UN Headquarters in New York on this Monday, 26 February.

This year, the Commission is introducing new work methods, by focusing on one key theme, the elimination of all forms of discrimination against girls, during this session, which will last from 2007 to 2009.

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