Commission on the Status of Women
8th & 9th Meetings (AM & PM)
DELEGATES TO WOMEN’S COMMISSION STRESS NEED TO ENGAGE MALES
IN ELIMINATING STEREOTYPES, DISCRIMINATION
They Must Be Involved in Changing
Mindsets, Says Minister as General Debate Concludes
Men and boys must engage actively in changing mindsets as well as eliminating stereotypes and discrimination in the global struggle to achieve gender equality, the Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania said today as the Commission on the Status of Women concluded its general debate.
Minister Asha Rose Migiro said that if males were excluded from that process, many gender goals and targets might never be achieved. Moreover, male involvement in gender equality must occur at an early stage for both girls and boys, with the syllabi and curricula of formal and informal education structures focusing on gender perspectives and sensitivities.
Echoing those sentiments, the representative of Bangladesh noted that while creating awareness of the need for gender parity was done mainly at the family and school levels in his country, public authorities and non-governmental organizations also worked together to convince men and boys that gender mainstreaming meant acting in partnerships.
Cuba’s delegate said that her country’s struggle to achieve equal rights and opportunities for women had always involved men. Attempts to achieve gender equality had focused on non-sexist education from the preschool years, where girls and boys shared household chores. Recently, Cuba had adopted the new Maternity Act, which acknowledged the right of both parents to a shared a one-year post-natal leave with a guaranteed 60 per cent of their salaries.
Many speakers also highlighted the urgent need to educate men and boys in the gender-equality process if significant progress was ever to occur in the continuing struggle against HIV/AIDS.
Noting that about half of all HIV infections worldwide now occurred among women, a representative of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said that men were a vital component of efforts to solve that problem. There was a need to address attitudes of male dominance and female passivity in relationships, and to debunk male stereotypes celebrating a cavalier approach to sexual promiscuity.
Furthering that argument, a World Health Organization (WHO) representative noted that many women had difficulties asking male partners to use condoms for fear of violence or projecting promiscuous. In addition, men were often key decision-makers when it came to women’s health and welfare, especially in accessing health services and treatment. The international community must continually develop innovative programmes examining health and social issues facing men and boys, including those affecting their relationships with women and girls.
Speakers also stressed the importance of equal participation by women in conflict prevention, negotiation and peace-building, as well as political decision-making, with many noting such continuing obstacles as restrictive cultural traditions, persistent stereotypes, and lack of sufficient access to reproductive health services as well as information and communication technologies.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Italy, Syria, United States, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Malaysia, Tunisia, Philippines, Burkina Faso, Australia, Kyrgyzstan, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Armenia, Jordan, Senegal, Thailand, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Viet Nam, Ethiopia, Zambia, Cameroon, Suriname, Guinea, Nicaragua, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Barbados, Brazil (on behalf of the Rio Group), Mali and Gabon.
The Commission also heard from representatives of the Holy See, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Council of Europe, and the Inter Parliamentary Union.
In addition, representatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) made statements.
Representatives of several non-governmental organizations also spoke.
The Commission on the Status of Women will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Friday 5 March, to discuss follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly and to consider its working methods.
The Commission on the Status of Women met to continue its general debate today as well as to discuss follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. It was also expected to review gender mainstreaming in the United Nations system and consider the Commission’s working methods. (For background information, see Press Release WOM/1435 of 1 March.)
ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy) said his country had successfully made men and boys active partners in the implementation of gender equality, mainly by helping younger generations overcome gender stereotypes about home life and family care responsibilities. It had used educational programmes that underlined the role that teachers could play in gender issues and equal opportunities. To assist women in the labour market and enable them to develop careers, it was also important to create incentives for family support services and policies to reconcile work with family life.
Italy was involved in programmes to empower women affected by war in various parts of the world, he said. In Afghanistan, it supported gender mainstreaming in judicial reform in partnership with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and women lawyers associations. It was also working with women’s associations from disadvantaged nations to help them with economic empowerment and to promote reproductive health in women and girls. In Palestine, Italy was directly involved in a partnership with the newly appointed Minister of Women’s Affairs to create a democratic and participatory project involving non-governmental organizations at the local and national levels.
MARILYN MARTONE, Observer for the Holy See, said that that in many regions, women were present and active in every area of life -- economic, cultural, religious and political. Through feminine insight, women enriched human understanding, through great sacrifice.
Expressing support for elements of a just society found in the Beijing Platform for Action, she underlined that too many women were still victims of violence and war, adding that when conflict emerged, they became the special target of combatants. The time had come to condemn all sexual brutality perpetuated against women. Also, the international community must not fail to condemn the exploitation and trafficking of women.
RANIA AL HAJ ALI (Syria) said her country had formulated legislation to empower women and afford them equal opportunities in all fields, and had drawn up a national strategy based on the Beijing Platform for Action. It was attempting to assist women with challenges, including negative stereotypes, by focusing on education. In Syria, women took part in political decision-making and their representation in parliament and other bodies had increased. The Syrian Commission for Family Affairs had been established last year to empower women and allow them to participate more effectively in human development efforts. The country had also endorsed the Arab Women’s Organization to help Arab women realize their rights.
She noted that the Secretary-General’s report did not mention continuing armed conflicts in different parts of the world, including the Arab region. Continued occupation in the region discriminated against women and hindered them from exercising their rights. The report should also have underlined the need to respect international law as it related to protection of civilians, especially women and children.
ASHA ROSE MIGIRO, Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that efforts to change mindsets, eliminate stereotypes and gender discrimination so as to achieve gender equality required the active involvement of men and boys at an early stage. Without their involvement, most of the goals and targets in that regard might not be achievable. A critical early intervention was needed, including a focus on gender perspectives and sensitivities in the syllabi and curricula of formal and informal education structures for girls and boys.
Presently, through activities such as community theatre and drama, awareness about the equality of the sexes had been enhanced, she said. Today, in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the role and responsibility of both boys and girls was made all the more relevant. Through the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, governments were encouraged to promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all HIV/AIDS policies and programmes to address the vulnerability to the pandemic of women and girls. There should also be a wider implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. Gender-specific concerns must be explicitly addressed in negotiations, contained in peace agreements and actively pursued in implementation.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said men and boys could play a critical role in achieving gender equality, acting as agents of change and partners in reform. Through sensitization, awareness creation and mobilization, they could be imbued with a consciousness, knowledge, willingness and commitment to timely and appropriate actions. In Bangladesh, the generation of such awareness was mainly done at the family and school levels. State functionaries at the village level were encouraged to do extension work in that regard. Public authorities and non-governmental organizations worked closely together to inspire men and boys with the idea that gender mainstreaming required them to act in a partnership and that a gender-mainstreamed society was a harmonious one.
Today, Bangladesh was in the throes of a tremendous societal transformation, he said. Through domestically inspired innovative ideas like microcredit and non-formal education, drawn from indigenous and intellectual resources, the country was empowering women economically and politically. Its experience also demonstrated, importantly in the present times, that the empowerment of women could stave off extremist thought and action, and marginalize destabilizing phenomena like terrorism.
ELLEN SAUERBREY (United States) addressed four areas in which her country sought to improve the lives of women and girls: preventing trafficking in persons; promoting the role of men in advancing women’s standard of living; addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis; and enabling women’s political empowerment, particularly in post-conflict societies. Committed to ending the scourge of trafficking, President Bush had committed an additional $50 million to accelerated efforts to rescue women and children from exploitation. United States anti-trafficking efforts included providing financial support for shelters and other assistance for victims; training for law enforcement officers; developing public-awareness campaigns; and strengthening international cooperation.
She said the United States looked forward to discussing the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality and would like to see agreed conclusions that addressed the institutional and social factors that dissuaded men from engaging more fully as responsible, loving and committed fathers. One key element in the country’s efforts to reduce women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS was to promote property rights for women. When women had control over their economic assets, they were better able to avoid risky sexual and abusive relationships. Empowering women economically went hand in hand with empowering them politically. The United States invested heavily in bringing women into the political equation in post-conflict areas, where their voices and visions were critical, such as in Afghanistan and Iraq.
MOMINAT OMAROVA (Azerbaijan) said that issue of women’s participation in conflict resolution was of special significance to her country, which had been involved in armed conflict for more than 15 years. With about 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons from occupied territories, Azerbaijan had experienced hardships and horrors that had particularly affected women and children. While having lost hearts and homes, husbands, sons and jobs, Azerbaijani women had not lost faith in the future and did not want their tragedies to be repeated. For women to play an equal role with men in safeguarding and sustaining peace, they must be given political and economic rights as well as adequate representation at all levels of decision-making.
She said that Azerbaijan’s National Plan of Action aimed to promote awareness of the role of women in conflict resolution and peace-building by conducting international seminars and conferences; encouraging women’s participation in post-conflict rehabilitation; and promoting the implementation of measures to increase their role in peace-building activities. By applying a gender perspective to conflict resolution, it had been recognized that women and men were involved in armed conflicts in different ways. To bring a true gender perspective to conflict resolution meant developing a deep understanding of the role of women in conflict prevention.
MAI TAHA MOHAMED KHALIL (Egypt) said the advancement of women was a basic foundation for the development and advancement of society. Therefore, attention to women was a basic principle of her country’s development plans. The role of women in conflict resolution and peace-building was an issue that gained particular importance in the context of the Middle East. Women must become mobilizers and main actors in all phases of peace processes. In September 2002, Egypt had hosted a conference at Sharm el-Sheikh, under the auspices of its First Lady, to launch a series of activities and preparations for an international conference on women and peace. The 2004 conference aimed to empower women to monitor and strengthen their participation in conflict resolution as well as in the economic and political context. Also, two workshops on women and peace had been held in Cairo to prepare for the 2004 conference.
Regarding the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality, she said men and women were units that completed each other. It was necessary to ensure their equal participation in order to achieve progress. The role of men and boys deserved more attention in that regard. It was important to pay more attention to the raising of awareness and education for men and boys on the roles they could play to achieve gender equality. It was also necessary to affirm the need to combat poverty, achieve gender-sensitive policies and have them supported by men in decision-making positions.
MAGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ (Cuba) said that her country’s struggle to achieve equal rights and opportunities for women had always involved men, who also worked to create consciousness and form new values based on domestic equality. Attempts to achieve gender equality had focused on programmes in non-sexist education from the preschool years, where girls and boys shared household chores. Recently, Cuba had adopted the new Maternity Act, which acknowledged the right of mothers and fathers to share the one-year post-natal leave for childcare, with 60 per cent of salaries guaranteed.
She said Cuban women knew about the serious material and psychological consequences of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on their country for more than 42 years –- a policy of belligerency and genocide against a people threatened with hunger, diseases and shortages. Women had been first in the line of tens of thousands of Cubans joining brigades of doctors, teachers and sports trainers who used their experience, skills and humanist values to help other countries in need.
SHARIFAH ZARAH SYED AHMAD (Malaysia) agreed that achieving gender equality was a societal responsibility that should fully engage men and women as well as requiring partnerships between them. A gender perspective must be inculcated through an informal gender-sensitization process for girls and boys at a very early age. Both parents, and more so fathers, must set examples in their behaviour and actions to avoid gender stereotyping and promote gender equality in the family. The Malaysian Government had introduced paternity leave and flexible work hours to encourage men to play a more constructive role in family matters. Gender perspectives should also be introduced in schools, the entire educational system and in the media.
Women’s equal access to and full participation in power structures and their involvement in all efforts for the prevention and resolution of conflicts were essential for the promotion of peace and security, she said. Experience had shown that in some conflict situations, women who had worked with rebel groups could be used as channels for dialogue to bring about peace. Also, the presence of female peacekeepers could foster and maintain trust among the local population.
MOHAMED SAMIR KOUBAA (Tunisia) said his country had continued to integrate the gender perspective into development plans. It had established gender-sensitive institutions, actively involving women in decision-making, and had adopted legislation on gender equality. In the fight against poverty, women were given access to microcredit and funds had been set up to help the rural population. Attempts had also been made to facilitate women’s access to basic health services and reproductive health facilities, which were provided free of charge throughout the national territory. The integration of women into all fields of society was vital for development, she stressed, although the advancement of women and the family would be a long-term task.
DESMOND JOHNS, Director, New York Office of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that approximately half of all HIV infections worldwide now occurred among women. In some parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, women with HIV had begun to outnumber men. Just as it would be wrong to simply cast women as powerless victims, it would be unrealistic to expect them to bring about the necessary changes entirely on their own. Men could make a difference and they must be part of the solution.
Several elements might be useful in charting the way forward, he said. First, efforts were needed to address the persistent gender norms of male dominance and female passivity in relationships. Secondly, male stereotypes that celebrated a cavalier approach to sexual promiscuity must be actively debunked. Also, it was necessary to create space within societies for frank and open discussions on subjects that were often seen as taboo, such as drug abuse and homosexuality, so that men had both the confidence and knowledge to take the steps necessary to protect themselves and their partners. In addition, efforts were needed to address issues that blocked the empowerment of women and so lighten their load and decrease their vulnerability.
AURORA JAVATE-DE DIOS (Philippines) said that the social power of men normalized violence against women, as most dramatically illustrated in pervasive domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment in most societies.
The trafficking and prostitution of women and children was the product of male demand for commercial sex. The cycle of violence against women must be brought to an end by the efforts of both men and women. A “Men Speak Out Against Violence” event had been held in the Philippines recently in observance of the 16 Days on Violence Against Women. A Gender Justice Award would be given to the most gender-sensitive judges.
Recognizing the essential role of women in pursuing long-term peace and development, she said, the Philippine Government had put special emphasis on the training of young women leaders in peace-building and providing assistance to families, especially those affected by the conflict in the country’s southern part. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process was headed by a woman.
She welcomed the proposal to ensure a close link between the review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action and the Millennium Development Goals, which included as a major objective the promotion of gender equality, the empowerment of women, and the improvement of maternal health. Other Millennium Goals, such as reducing poverty, universal primary education, reducing child mortality, the eradication of HIV/AIDS and ensuring environmental sustainability, were all inextricably linked to the status of women.
FATIMATA OUEDRAOGO (Burkina Faso) said her country was working to create optimal conditions for a gender balance in the development process. However, persistent poverty and restrictive cultural traditions created an unfavourable environment for women’s empowerment. Attempts were being made to improve conditions for women through special health care training, increased school enrolment and greater access to microcredit.
It was important for men to become involved in gender equality, she said, since they were the best guarantee of lasting success. Women owed any success in achieving gender equality to their own commitment and to the political authorities that had continued to improve conditions for them with the help of international organizations.
KERRY FLANAGAN (Australia) said that women and girls in her country continued to make steady progress in many fields, including education, training, employment, politics and decision-making. The Government acknowledged the significant contributions that many women had made to peace-building and conflict resolution, especially through their informal work in local communities, and it was committed to increasing their involvement, particularly in formal mechanisms.
Concerted efforts by the international community were needed to help overcome obstacles and enable women to participate in decision-making and leadership positions, she continued. Australia was strongly committed to the increased participation of women in all peace processes. It had actively supported post-conflict peace-building programmes in the Solomon Islands and Bougainville.
She said that increasing the involvement of men in the process of change towards gender equality was a critical step in tackling entrenched gender stereotypes and roles and eliminating discrimination and violence from the lives of women and girls. More work was needed through education and socialization to tackle entrenched attitudes and behaviour towards women and girls. Strategies must be evaluated and best practices shared more widely.
SALWA DAMEN-MASRI, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said that a balanced participation of men and women in the management of public affairs was central to any democracy. In that context, the Union had developed, over the past 30 years, a number of programmes to assist the participation of women in the political process. However, much more work was needed.
Today, women constituted an average of only 15 per cent of all national parliamentarians, she stated. A more promising and recent phenomenon had been the proliferation of women in the parliaments of post-conflict countries. The IPU had carried out a number of projects in such countries aimed at facilitating women’s capacity to participate in reconstruction and democratic processes.
Once elected, she noted, women required support to be able to participate actively in the work and life of parliament. Support activities carried out by the Union fell under four main categories: capacity-building activities for women parliamentarians; strengthening parliament’s capacity to address gender issues; establishing networking links; and sensitizing men to gender issues.
NDIORO NDIAYE, Deputy Director-General, International Organization for Migration (IOM), pointed out that the last two decades had seen a greater institutional awareness of the need to involve women in the preparation, implementation and follow-up to peace agreements in order to guarantee stability and promote sustainable development. But while the Beijing Platform for Action, the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly on “Women 2000: Gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”, and Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) all called for greater involvement of women, the cruel reality was far different. The fact that with rare exceptions, women did not espouse wars but had to bear them well into the post-conflict phase after the signing of peace agreements was one explanation for that gap.
Women should not simply be mentioned globally in a “catch-all” article, she said. Most agreements did not in fact incorporate a gender-specific dimension and were usually drawn up by men, glossing over women’s rights as well as their potential role in the post-conflict process. To exclude women, who often constituted a majority after conflict, greatly encumbered the chances for success of the peace process and the capacity to implement decisions. It was especially important to ensure that their contribution and ideas on education, public health and access to employment, physical security and integrity were taken into account in building a society that respected each individual, especially as women assumed total responsibility for households during conflict.
KAMIL BAIALINOV (Kyrgyzstan) noted that understanding the role of women in realizing and maintaining peace had significantly increased in recent years. Their equal participation in all aspects of the peace process had become an important focus for international action, which was a considerable improvement in international recognition of obstacles to advancing women. In an effort to guarantee gender equality, the KyrgyzRepublic had ratified more than 30 international human rights instruments. It had also strengthened legislation and the national mechanism to improve the status of women.
In further advancing women’s rights, he recommended using the education system as a tool for learning about gender equality; using mass media and advertisements in exposing positive gender roles to children and youth; and providing gender-sensitive education through sports groups. Men had an important role to play in promoting the economic rights and independence of women and should be involved more widely in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
MARY REINER BARNES, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the Order had long recognized the necessity of addressing the needs of women who suffered as a result of armed conflicts. In recent years, at the request of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Order had been one of two groups that had implemented programmes to help traumatized women in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo adjust to life after the Balkan Conflicts. Its programmes in Africa had included the establishment of refugee field hospitals serving maternal needs during crises in Burundi, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta also had two significant projects in Haiti and Bethlehem, she said. Both the Sacre-CoeurCRUDEMHospital in Milot, Haiti, and the HolyFamilyHospital in Bethlehem served a very real need for women and their families, regardless of religion, culture or social condition. Despite the difficulties of running projects in unstable areas, the Order recognized the growing need for such assistance in troubled areas as well as the need for women’s education as a means to eradicate poverty.
CECILIA ROSE ODUYEMI, External Relations Officer, World Health Organization (WHO), said that gender inequality played a key role in the vulnerability of women to HIV/AIDS. Evidence indicated that many women found it difficult to ask male partners to use condoms for fear of violence or of being seen as unfaithful or promiscuous. In other settings, economic need drove women to engage in commercial or transactional sex without necessarily being able to ensure that it was safe. Thus, HIV prevention programmes that did not address those realities and subsequently work towards transforming harmful stereotypes and attitudes could have only limited success.
However, she said, gender equality could not be achieved by targeting women alone. A critical component in transforming gender norms and behaviour was the involvement of boys and men. In many contexts, males were the key decision-makers when it came to women’s health and welfare -– particularly with regard to accessing health services and treatment. Involving them in various programmes provided an opportunity for promoting more equality in decision-making and could lead to better communication between partners, not only on issues relating to health, but also those pertaining to decisions on the household, children and the division of labour. The WHO recognized the importance of involving men and boys in achieving gender equality and urged the continued development of innovative programmes that examined the health and social issues facing men and boys, including those affecting their relationships with women and girls.
VINCENT McCLEAN, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that the trafficking of human beings had become one of the fastest growing problems worldwide, with more than 1 million cases each year. While men and boys could also be trafficked, an estimated 90 per cent of victims were women and girls, who, if trafficked into the sex industry, were particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. The Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, supplementing the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime placed a legally binding obligation on States parties to take action against trafficking in human beings in three main areas –- prevention, prosecution and protection.
He said the UNODC had produced a number of public service announcements for television to publicize the ugly reality of trafficking, encourage action against trafficking organizations and facilitate assistance for victims. The latest announcement included “helpline” telephone numbers specific to each country so that members of the public could report suspected trafficking activity to an appropriate organization and victims could seek help. Those television spots were already being aired in Mexico and three Central American countries. Later this month, the UNODC would launch 30 additional country-specific versions of the spots containing a “helpline”.
AXUMITE GEBRE-EGZIABHER, Director, New York Office of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), recalled that in May 2003, the agency’s Governing Council had adopted resolution 19/16 on women’s roles and rights in human-settlements development and slum-upgrading. The main activities relating to gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment included: mainstreaming gender issues in the two global campaigns on secure tenure and urban governance and in water and sanitation activities; empowerment of urban women entrepreneurs through housing development and land rights; promoting local-to-local dialogues which brought women face-to-face with local authorities; awards and competitions to promote gender responsive local governments in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Pacific regions; and women’s empowerment in disaster management and post-conflict situations.
As the Commission prepared to review the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and develop another 10-year plan for women, she said, it should take into account the concerns of rural and urban poor women, especially those living and working in slums and informal settlements. The Commission should be more realistic in considering the current pace of urbanization. One of the major gaps in the implementation of the Beijing Platform and national priorities was that little or no attention had been paid to the plight of poor urban women and their living environment. Even where increasing the role of women in politics and decision-making had been a priority, more effort had gone into promoting women in national parliaments than helping women to participate in the governance of municipalities, local councils and other urban authorities, where most decisions on human settlements issues were taken.
MARINO VILLANUEVA CALLOT (Dominican Republic) said his country had undertaken significant legal reforms in the areas of inter-family conflict, domestic violence, access to land, education, political participation and labour regulation. It had also strengthened the national women’s mechanism, which had become a ministry in 1999. In addition, there had been an increase in the social and political participation of women in national bodies.
The international community must identify the remaining major challenges to the furthering of women’s empowerment and reaffirm its commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action, he said. Poverty remained a critical area as women continued to rank among the poorest people in the world. Health was another vital area, with some 23,000 women dying annually from pregnancy and childbirth complications. That translated into 190 per 100,000 live births. In addition, the incidence of HIV/AIDS among women was increasing and women needed more timely access to health services. Violence against women also needed critical attention, as did the lack of their participation in peace processes.
ADEKUNBI ABIBAT SONAIKE (Nigeria), aligning herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said gender equality could only be achieved through the promotion of equal rights, by creating greater opportunities for women increasing their access to resources and information as a means of empowerment. As long as systematic gender inequalities delivered advantage to men over women and promised future advantage to boys, men and boys had an ethical responsibility to use their resources to change the system. That point had been driven home during a rally to mark International Women’s Day in Abuja, Nigeria, which had been used to further sensitize women on the need to participate in politics.
She said economic empowerment was a major key to women’s participation in politics as well as in post-conflict elections. Women should not only participate in elections as voters, but also as candidates. In Nigeria, a national Action Committee on women in Politics (NACWIP) had been set up to mainstream women into active political participation through advocacy, mobilization and fund-raising activities. That initiative had led to the waiver of registration fees for women political aspirants by some political parties.
ALISA ADAMYAN, Adviser to the Prime Minister of Armenia, said that equal rights between men and women were enshrined in her country’s constitution. However, despite the existence of legal norms, Armenian women needed state support to create equal opportunities. There had been a dramatic deterioration in their standard of living as a result of the transition period as well as the impact of earthquakes and conflict. The Armenian Government was determined to implement the Beijing Platform for Action and national mechanisms had been created in that context, including the council for women’s issues. There were also national programmes on attaining gender equality, improving the socio-economic situation of women, eradicating violence against women and the role of the media.
Women’s empowerment and gender equality was not possible without real leverage in decision making and their active participation at all political levels was needed, she said. In 1999, the Government had introduced a temporary measure for a 5 per cent quota for women on party lists. That had impacted the 2003 elections, in which the number of women elected to parliament had increased. Besides the appointment of a woman as the country’s first ombudsman, the head of the Office for Religious and National Minorities was also a woman. The Government had paid particular attention to improving the socio-economic situation of women with programmes for job creation, the provision of credit and the development of entrepreneurship. Armenian women were involved in various peacekeeping processes at both the national and international levels. In cooperation with state agencies, large-scale training on gender issues and peacekeeping had been organized.
MU’TAZ HYASSAT (Jordan) said his country was committed to advancing women and promoting gender equality. It had been working relentlessly to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women, and to further integrate gender perspectives in all areas. Several national popular information campaigns had been launched to anchor gender equality and women’s empowerment in people’s minds. Further, the Government of Jordan was keen to launch and maintain cooperation with concerned United Nations bodies to strengthen and enhance the status of women in social, economic and political life.
Women had become more vulnerable in situations of armed conflicts and foreign occupation and continued to be the primary victims, he said. However, they were often under-represented in national reconciliation, peace-building and peacekeeping processes. For peace to be sustained, it must enjoy the widest popular participation possible.
He noted that actions of the Israeli Government had violated international humanitarian law as well as the human rights of Palestinian women. Their status and living conditions were linked to achieving a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but the Israelis must fulfill all their obligations with respect to the Palestinian people, particularly women and children.
AWA GUEYE KEBE, Minister for Family, Social Development and National Solidarity of Senegal, said her country’s Government had committed itself to implementing the Beijing Platform for Action, not only by drafting a national action plan but also by incorporating a gender perspective in all policies and programmes. The national action plan was the framework guiding policy for greater gender equality. Five of the Platform’s 12 areas of concern had been the focuses of Senegal’s action plan: economic advancement and combating poverty; education and training; the health of women and girls, including reproductive health; fundamental rights in the area of decision-making; and mechanisms to promote financing for women.
After the plan was finalized, her Ministry had proceeded to an evaluation to determine progress made and existing shortcomings, she said. Among other things, the gap between girls and boys in education had been noticeably reduced. Also, regarding the position of women in the family and society, there had been a reduction of stereotypes in schools. Further, women were being better informed of their rights and participating more in the economy.
Senegal was playing an important role in terms of conflict management and peacekeeping, and recognized the important role of women in that regard, she said. But despite progress, there were difficulties in implementing the action plan for women, such as a lack of respect by some stakeholders in keeping financial commitments. She proposed that the preparatory agenda for the Beijing review be prepared early so that States could prepare well.
LAXANACHANTORN LAOHAPHAN (Thailand) said that the goal of gender equality was one that the world was still striving for. The role of men and boys was indispensable in that regard and their full involvement urgent if the issues affecting women were to be effectively addressed. In order to sensitize boys, it was necessary to examine and deal with aspects of culture and beliefs that contributed to stereotypes and male dominance. Men should be encouraged to provide positive role models for furthering gender equality.
As a State party to the Convention, Thailand recognized its responsibility to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. The country’s 1997 constitution had enshrined and guaranteed equal rights for men and women and allowed for affirmative action. While some progress had been made, much work remained to reach the goal of gender equality. More must be done for the socialization of boys and girls, both in the home and at school, to achieve gender equality. Policies and programmes should be implemented to ensure that traditions and norms supported gender equality.
Women and girls often disproportionately bore the burden of conflict and were at greater risk of being victimized and exploited, she said. It was essential to incorporate women’s needs into peace processes at every stage. The role of men was crucial as they played a greater part in conflicts and in decision-making. The Commission could also take proactive steps by asking the United Nations to compile and forward a list of competent women for inclusion in future peace activities.
VALERIE NYIRAHABINEZA, Minister of Gender and Promotion of the Family of Rwanda, said her ministry had been established with the aim of achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Government had also promoted women’s councils at the central and local levels to defend women’s interests and the Council of Ministers had prepared a national policy on gender for implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
A law on matrimony and succession adopted recently granted girls inheritance rights and Rwanda’s new constitution gave a considerable number of governmental seats to women. The country had built a solid foundation for strengthening strategic actions aimed at combating inequality between girls and boys. After the conflict and genocide in Rwanda, women had taken considerable steps to promote a culture of peace and solidarity in the country. All over the country they had come together to say “never again”.
ANNE MARIE MAKOMBO, President of the Commission for Women, Children and Family in the National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said her country had been devastated by years of war, which had taken hundreds of thousands of lives. During the conflict, women and girls had paid a high price due to sexual violence, torture and rape. As a result, HIV/AIDS had spread further. Unfortunately, women still suffered in the aftermath of war and in light of tensions in the eastern part of the country. At the same time, there was now hope for a better future. With international assistance, women were beginning to organize themselves and to play a part in the peace process.
Gender equality was a political and social responsibility incumbent on every State, she said. Women had a real part to play in conferring upon their sons the role they should play in achieving gender equality. There was an urgent need for an integrated approach to involving women in resolving conflict in Central Africa. Congolese women wanted to be active in the upcoming conference on peace and security in the Great Lakes region. Suggesting the establishment of the post of Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the protection of women in armed conflict, she also appealed for greater assistance to strengthen her country’s national capacity.
TRAN THI MAI HUONG (Viet Nam) said that the machinery to advance women had been set up within her country’s ministries, agencies and local authorities at every level. For the first time, the country had developed national gender-mainstreaming guidelines and indicators on women’s rights for policy-making bodies. Hundreds of officials at all levels had been equipped with gender knowledge and gender-mainstreaming skills, allowing gender issues to be integrated into policy-making and legislation processes. For example, land-use and home-ownership certificates were no to be issued in the names of both husband and wife, and the law on marriage and family recognized domestic work as paid work.
She outlined several challenges to be overcome in implementing the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as well as the Beijing Platform for Action. They included reducing poverty, improving education for women, lack of societal awareness and gender stereotypes, and gender mainstreaming in policy-making at all levels.
MARTA REQUENA, Council of Europe, said that over the last 30 years, the legal status of women in the region had undoubtedly improved. But effective gender equality was far from being a reality and women’s human rights were still violated. New forms of violations had emerged, such as an increase in gender-based violence and trafficking in women for sexual exploitation. In recent conflicts in Europe sexual violence had been used as a war strategy.
She said that the Fifth European Ministerial Conference, meeting in Skopje on 22 and 23 January 2003, had adopted a resolution calling on governments to promote the full participation of women at all levels of decision-making and to encourage the integration of a gender perspective in all activities aimed at conflict prevention and resolution. It had also adopted a Declaration and a Plan of Action defining the work of the Council of Europe to protect and promote the human rights of women, focusing on three areas: promotion of equal opportunities, rights, freedoms and responsibilities of women and men; preventing and combating violence against women and trafficking in human beings; and development of gender mainstreaming, within the Council of Europe and at the national level.
HAILE SELASSIE GETACHEW (Ethiopia) said his Government had continued to implement the commitments of the Beijing Platform for Action through legal reforms and by putting in place policy and institutional measures. Machinery had been set up from the level of the Office of the Prime Minister to women’s affairs departments in 16 ministries and all regional governments. In addition, gender focal points had been established at the district level to incorporate gender issues in local development programmes. The media were playing a key role in awareness-raising as well as promoting gender equality and gender issues.
Measures had also been taken to ensure equal access for girls to education, and to increase their enrolment and retention rates, he said. Those steps included higher budget allocations for regional schools to increase girls’ enrolment, reduce drop-out rates, reserve places in higher education institutions, and include gender as a main component of civic education starting from primary schools. Civil service reform was paying greater attention to the priority issues of women in employment and promotion, and also to affirmative action provisions aimed at increasing the number of women in leadership and decision-making positions.
A.B. PONGA (Zambia) said her country’s Government had always held the view that the role of men and boys was the missing link in efforts to achieve gender equality. Zambia had launched a number of efforts focused in that direction, including special programmes in schools and colleges and in the workplace. The socialization and education of boys and young men was a long-term undertaking and one which the Government was determined to pursue. In partnership with civil society and the private sector, it was working hard to sensitize men and boys on the need to combat HIV/AIDS within the workplace.
Regarding the electoral process, she expressed support for equal participation and the integration of gender perspectives into the democratic process in post-conflict situations. The crafting of a gender-sensitive constitutional and legal framework, particularly electoral laws and regulations, enhanced and ensured the full participation of women in such processes. Zambia would like to see in the agreed conclusions a reflection of the need for affirmative action and proportional representation in order to increase the number of women in the political sphere. Capacity-building programmes that facilitated women’s participation in seeking peace and implementing desired outcomes to conflict situations also required strong support.
MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said peace was inseparably linked to equality between men and women and that maintaining it required equal participation by both. The legal concept of gender equality was proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In Cameroon, the preamble to the constitution guaranteed the equality of all before the law and the protection of their rights.
Men and women were automatically given certain roles and activities that were stereotypes constituting breaks from legal equality, he said. Thus, men and boys should play an important role in gender equality in view of the roles they played in society. Bold national policies were needed to bring about the triumph of male-female partnerships en route to the ultimate goal of sustainable development.
IRMA LOEMEAN TOBING-KLEIN (Suriname), noting that violence against women of all ages received special attention in her country, said there was also a need to pay attention to violence against men and boys, which was becoming more and more clear. Human rights education was a key to development and transformation. Equality would not be achieved unless human rights became a way of life.
Highlighting some of the concrete steps that Suriname was taking to meet the goals of the Beijing Platform for Action, she said they included the establishment of a Special Committee for Gender Legislation, focusing on the elimination of discriminatory rules in the present legislation; the introduction of a gender mainstreaming plan of action and gender focal points in every ministry; and the organization of workshops and training courses for public servants on gender awareness, gender analysis, networking and lobbying.
PAUL GOA ZOUMANIGUI (Guinea), expressing satisfaction with the Security Council’s focus on the question of women in armed conflict, welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on that subject, noting that implementation of its various recommendations would constitute a major challenge for governments and development partners. Guinea had suffered from conflict and would like to cooperate with concerned organizations in contributing to the consolidation of peace.
The involvement of boys and men in achieving gender equality had been considered in the Beijing Platform for Action, he noted. In Guinea, the promotion of women had been integrated into the strategies and policies of various ministerial departments. The country’s political commitment to promoting the rights of women was reflected in its national policy and in the strengthening of the relevant institutions.
EDUARDO J. SEVILLA SOMOZA (Nicaragua) said that eight years after the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, his Government had reaffirmed its commitment to apply that document fully and to tackle new problems. Nicaragua had been adopting new measures to achieve gender equality in the twenty-first century. However, the economic situation had not been helpful; Nicaragua was one of the poorest countries in Latin America with 46 per cent of its population living in poverty as of 2001. Gross national product was not more than $500. The Government had presented a national development plan to strengthen the country’s competitiveness and its ultimate goal was to ensure that all Nicaraguans could live in dignity.
Some progress had been made in enacting legislation in support of women, he noted, but despite progress, difficulties were hindering women from fully exercising their rights. Sometimes they did not know about the laws and at other times there were problems in applying them. New and additional resources were needed to implement programmes. Nicaragua had a system of gender indicators to improve the availability of gender-disaggregated statistics in order to identify gaps and formulate policies with a gender perspective.
In the area of health, he said, life expectancy for women had increased. However, maternal death was still a major public health problem. The Government was seeking to reduce maternal and infant mortality. The greatest challenge in implementing the Beijing Platform was ensuring continuity and strengthening the measures already taken.
ZOFIA OLSZOWSKA, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), noted several factors impeding access to information and communication technologies, especially in developing countries, which created even higher barriers for women. UNESCO had launched a multilateral dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders -- including governments, bilateral and multilateral partners, the private sector, academia, professional communities, and civil society -- to reflect on how gender issues could be more effectively addressed in the process initiated by the World Summit for the Information Society, and on creating an information and knowledge society based on equity and justice.
From July 2003 to July 2004, UNESCO had served as Chair of one of the governing bodies of UNAIDS, the Committee of Co-sponsoring Organizations, comprising nine United Nations agencies. That position had given UNESCO a good opportunity to play a leading role in the World AIDS Campaign dedicated to “Women, Girls, HIV and AIDS”, and to promote to the fullest programmes and projects on HIV/AIDS that were culturally appropriate and integrated gender perspectives.
ELIZABETH GIBBONS, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said it was the agency’s conviction that gender equality was central to human rights and that it was a matter of vital importance to all people, not just to women and girls. Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls were not only vital development goals in their own right, but crucial for achieving all the Millennium Development Goals. The adoption of a human rights approach to programming had been particularly important in advancing UNICEF’s work for gender equality and the rights of women and children, particularly girls. Seeing gender equality as a fundamental principle of the human rights-based approach also recognized that ensuring the rights of women and girls required changes in individual consciousness as well as practice in the family, in the community, in the nation and all its institutions, and at the international level.
For lasting and transformative change in values and attitudes, she said, gender equality must be addressed in the early-childhood socialization process and girls’ education was key to addressing gender discrimination in the life-cycle perspective. Families and schools must be sensitized to create new values and patterns of behaviour and that work must continue in adolescence. Men and boys should play a key role in the socialization of children not only as role models, but also in their participation in family life and in sharing household responsibilities. Working with men and boys to realize the rights of women and children, especially girls, was now a core part of UNICEF’s strategy at the global, regional and country levels.
PENELOPA GJURCILOVA (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), aligning herself with the European Union, said one of the most efficient means to eliminate gender discrimination was to mobilize all factors in society in order to improve the quality of social justice, human rights and democracy. As the country had achieved gender equality in terms of the legal framework, the priority was now to realistically implement the fundamental principle. The Women’s Lobby, established under the auspices of the 2000 Stability pact for South-Eastern Europe, had worked to overcome prejudices about traditional gender roles, encouraging women to be actively involved in politics and to lobby political parties for enhanced representation on their candidate lists.
Addressing the trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation, she emphasized that her country had undertaken all legal, political and administrative measures to combat that evil, and participated in regional and international projects and activities directed against it. The Government, in cooperation with relevant non-governmental forces, had also initiated the necessary changes in family and criminal laws to address violence against women, including family violence.
RUTH BLACKMAN, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Transformation of Barbados, said that by far the most troubling factor regarding gender inequality in health was the increasing incidence of HIV/AIDS in her country. Gender relations where women were economically and socially dependent on men placed them at a distinct disadvantage in sexual relationships. Both sexes therefore must be empowered to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS. Both needed access to reliable information, services and life-saving treatment, as well as information on the gender dimensions of HIV/AIDS and the implications for individuals, families and communities.
Barbados had launched a female-led campaign entitled “Speak Sister” in 2003 to help in empowering women and providing information on reproductive rights, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and gender issues, she said. But despite the efforts to educate the population regarding HIV/AIDS, behavioural change was slow as the protection of one’s health was often sacrificed by women’s inability to negotiate sexual relations and participation in transactional sex. The Government had also recognized that violence against women remained very prevalent in Barbadian society and was committed to its reduction and eventual eradication.
A recognition of the need for training and a module on domestic violence intervention had been incorporated into the curriculum at the RegionalPoliceTraining School.
ROGINE BITTENCOURT (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the aim of revising the Commission’s working methods should be to better enable it to comply with its mandate of implementing the Beijing Platform. While progress had been made, especially regarding the election of Bureau members and promoting events that emphasized interactivity, interactive events in the annual session should focus on implementation. One way of moving in that direction was to determine, in the next multi-year programme of work, only one priority theme for discussion each year, which would give members more time to focus on documents for practical and concrete measures.
She said 2005 would be an important opportunity to evaluate monitoring and implementation of the Beijing commitments, in which the Commission played a central role. Possibilities currently being considered were a high-level segment, round tables of experts and significant participation by civil society. The possibility of the Commission providing a contribution on gender to a major event related to evaluation of the Millennium Goals had also been raised.
CHEICK SIDI DIARRA (Mali) said that in accordance with the Fourth World Conference on Women, his country had developed a national action plan for the advancement of women for the period 2002-2006. It was designed around five areas: reducing women’s illiteracy; improving the health of women, particularly reproductive health; reinforcing gender equality; fighting female poverty; and improving the image of women in society. In evaluating progress made from 1996 to 2000, the following had been recognized: improvement of the image of women in Malian society; recognition of women’s rights and their role and contribution to economic development; decrease in illiteracy through the reduction of obstacles to schooling for girls; and promotion of participation by women in public life.
He said Mali was up to date with its obligations stemming from article 18 of the anti-discrimination Convention and had just sent its second, third, fourth and fifth reports to the Secretary-General. The two themes for the Commission’s session were well placed in Mali’s action plan for women and the national policy was involved in improving the contribution of women to the maintenance of social peace. An essential component of the action plan was the participation of women in promoting a culture of peace. On the role of men and boys, a change in behaviour and mentality was visible despite the weight of traditions and customs.
Ms. AWORET OBERDENO (Gabon) reaffirmed her country’s continuing efforts to provide microcredit to marginalized populations, especially in the rural areas. The Government was trying to set up appropriate support organizations for women and to integrate the gender dimension into development programmes and projects. President Bongo had decided that no less than four women should be part of each ministerial cabinet. Regarding women in peace processes, she said they were the main victims of conflict and their involvement in that area must be strengthened.
REIKO AOKI, representing the non-governmental organization Project Five-O, called for sustained efforts to support the equal participation of women in formal peace processes and to build their capacity to engage effectively at the negotiating table. Women’s experiences of and expectations for conflict resolution, including attention to physical security, must be regarded as vital inputs to the peace process. Peace agreements must contain the language of and specific provisions for the implementation of gender equality and equal participation. Further, all actors in peace processes had a responsibility to ensure gender-sensitive implementation of agreements.
She also called on governments to give women equal opportunities to rebuild their communities after conflict and to value their understanding of family and social needs, as well as their strength and wisdom. Women should have equal opportunities to devise programmes and take part in budgetary decisions at the community level. She recommended that governments identify and recognize potential women leaders, giving them training and support to enable them to promote peace within their communities.
Ms. HELMY, Coalition of Islamic Organizations (CIO), said the United Nations and its specialized institutions had dropped one of its major roles by not paying much attention to cultural diversity. United Nations agreements called for the stereotyping of all people into a single cultural pattern and way of life, namely the Western one, and then recommended it as the only successful pattern in the world. Different cultural ways of life and peculiarities must be respected.
The difference in cultural stages between one country and another necessarily meant that they did not face the same problems and, therefore, solutions suggested to those problems would differ, she said. There was no single solution that could be applied to a variety of problems and cultural stages and the CIO rejected all attempts by United Nations decision-makers to use the Organization as a legal means to put pressure on peoples of the world to accept the proposed cultural stereotype through financial aid or sanctions.
NADJI BULLA, NGO Caucus on Women’s Equal Participation in conflict prevention; management and conflict resolution; and in post-conflict peace-building, called for a Security Council body to monitor implementation of resolution 1325 (2000). Governments and the Secretary-General should report annually on progress and challenges. Women’s participation in conflict prevention and transformation could not be achieved without significant economic and human resources and building the capacity of women’s organizations was a prerequisite for their meaningful participation.
To enhance women’s participation in conflict prevention, she suggested improving the collection, analysis and inclusion of information on women and gender issues as well as the early warning efforts of the United Nations, regional organizations and MemberStates. There was also a need for improvement in the collection, analysis and inclusion of women and gender issues in the Secretary-General’s reports to the Security Council. It was also important to include women and gender issues in all stages of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration -– a key component of preventing the resurgence of conflict.
NORA WINTOUR, Global Unions and the Labour Caucus, said the organization would welcome a clear reference in the agreed conclusions to the need for adequate resourcing of public education systems. A gender-sensitive education would prepare boys to take gender-sensitive values into their working lives.
Women continued to suffer from unequal treatment in training, recruitment, pay and promotions, she said. Action-oriented recommendations on how to address the gender pay gap would be welcome as women earned between 12 and 60 per cent less than men. The informal economy, where 80 per cent of workers in the global South were to be found, posed special challenges for achieving gender equality. The informal economy, where close to half of the female non-agricultural labour force was employed, was characterized by extremely low wages, no benefits or legal protection, and unsafe working conditions.
Ms. KAHURANANGA, World Vision, said gender equality was paramount if boys and girls, men and women were to live in a society where there was equal access and opportunity in employment, social services, property ownership and participation in policy-making, governance and the law. World Vision’s experience in 96 countries confirmed that gender equality required involvement in decision-making processes, and representation in leadership and empowerment. The organization was gravely concerned at discrimination against women and girls, including violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation, oppression and unjust subordination. Men and boys must play important roles in the solution, rather than be stigmatized as the problem.
She then made several recommendations to governments, non-governmental organizations and United Nations bodies, including: prioritizing programmes to develop leadership qualities in boys and girls; reiterating the importance of education; involving men and women, girls and boys in combating HIV/AIDS; strengthening partnerships between men and women; and ensuring the participation of men and boys in eliminating harmful traditional practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation.
Ms. MONAKALI, African Women’s Caucus, said that the well known proverb “When two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers” was true of the African women and their children who bore the brunt of conflicts, even though they did not initiate them. Underlying those conflicts were the problems of poverty, disease, debt, lack of security and absence of democracy and good governance, which exacerbated the lack of equal participation by women in conflict prevention, management and resolution as well as post-conflict peace-building.
Reinforcing the importance of implementing the Millennium Goals, she called on the international community to, among other things, relieve African States of the debt burden. African governments should also, among other things, accelerate measures to alleviate poverty and disease, entrench gender-friendly good governance, drastically reduce military spending and divert financial resources to the social sector.
Ms. OLATERU-OLAGOBEGI, Women in Law and Development in Africa, noted that women from almost all the continent’s subregions suffered from various abuses as a result of conflicts. The Protocol to the African Charter on Women’s Rights, adopted by the African Union at Maputo last July, recognized the rights of women to participate in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building. It should not be allowed to die as a mere document, but should be a virile instrument that put firmly in place a legal framework for all African States to implement women’s rights. All African States should sign and ratify the Protocol without delay.
Ms. CALISKAN, Femmes Africa Solidarite, said that sustainable peace could not be achieved without the involvement of women. Stories from Liberia, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo made it clear that women could have a great impact on peace negotiations, bringing to the table issues of particular concern, such as refugees and HIV/AIDS.
While supporting the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report, she highlighted four: the need to create mechanisms to ensure women’s equal participation in peace negotiations; the need for institutional dialogue at the national, subregional, regional and international levels; the need to mobilize resources to fund women’s participation in peace negotiations the same way that the international community supported other groups; and the continuing need to address the question of violence against women.
* *** *