More than 300 people met at United Nations Headquarters yesterday to examine new ways that the private sector and philanthropists could help empower women around the world.
A special event of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) titled “Engaging Philanthropy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment”, was co-organised by DESA and attracted prominent members of the business, political and entertainment communities.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used the event to emphasise that all corporate entities and individuals had an important role to play in helping achieve the third millennium development goal.
“To the private sector, we look to you to exercise even more leadership for gender equality, starting from the top. We need you to promote education, support human rights and non-discrimination, empower women through all levels of corporate responsibility,” Mr. Ban said.
“To the philanthropy community, we look to you to target women with your programs. Make sure that female beneficiaries are treated equally, work to ensure that their communities, homes, schools and work places are free of verbal, physical or sexual harassment.”
ECOSOC President Hamidon Ali said that the financial and economic crisis had further deepened gender inequality, as the downturn affected women and men, girls and boys differently.
Mr. Ali said that there were many practical steps and actions that could be taken to reduce gender inequalities but “without leadership and political will, the world will fall short of taking these practical steps and meeting the goal we agreed to achieve by 2015”.
He urged the philanthropic community to work more with ECOSOC.
“Partnerships are the lynchpin for advancing the Millennium Development Goals,” he said.
Vice President of ECOSOC Morten Wetland said that it was not only morally important for the private sector to support women’s empowerment, but that it also made economic sense.
He said that in his home country of Norway, it was no coincidence that 80 per cent of women participate in the workplace and that the country boasts one of the world’s healthiest economies.
“If you do not promote women’s advancement, you undermine the prospects for growth and prosperity,” he said.
Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson and Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis delivered the keynote addresses at the event and urged for a concerted effort on achieving gender equality.
The event included a number of sessions under such themes as “strengthening partnerships in support of achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women”, “ending violence against women and girls” and “promoting women’s economic empowerment”.