DESPITE ‘RECORD YEAR’ GLOBALLY FOR WOMEN DECISION MAKERS IN PUBLIC SECTOR, ROAD WAS LONG TO ACHIEVE PARITY WITH MEN, WOMEN’S COMMISSION TOLD

6 March 2009
WOM/1723

DESPITE ‘RECORD YEAR’ GLOBALLY FOR WOMEN DECISION MAKERS IN PUBLIC SECTOR, ROAD WAS LONG TO ACHIEVE PARITY WITH MEN, WOMEN’S COMMISSION TOLD

6 March 2009
Economic and Social Council
WOM/1723
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty-third Session

9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)

DESPITE ‘RECORD YEAR’ GLOBALLY FOR WOMEN DECISION MAKERS IN PUBLIC SECTOR,

ROAD WAS LONG TO ACHIEVE PARITY WITH MEN, WOMEN’S COMMISSION TOLD

United Nations Development Fund for Women Says Even in Nations

With Quotas, It Will Take More Than 20 years for Women to Catch Up

While it had been a “record year” for women decision makers in the public sector ‑‑ with women representing one in every five parliamentarians and joining the global labour force in increasing numbers ‑‑ much more had to be done if they were to achieve parity with men, experts told the Commission on the Status of Women today during an interactive discussion on women’s equal participation in decision-making processes at all levels.

Reviewing women’s representation in national assemblies, Anne Marie Goetz, Chief Adviser for Governance, Peace and Security at the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), said Rwanda topped world tables, having elected a parliament comprised of 56 per cent women, and bringing forward a “new definition of parity”.  Elsewhere, the global average of women had increased from 11.6 per cent of seats in 1995 to about 18.4 per cent today.

What made a difference, regardless of electoral systems, Ms. Goetz said, was the existence of quotas.  According to UNIFEM’s projected timeline, in nations with quotas, it would still take between 18 and 22 years for women to attain 40 per cent representation in public office.  In those with proportional representation systems, it would take 35 years.  Women’s ability to create change was evident as public budgets were directed to women’s issues.  Those women also served as role models for others to enter politics and they influenced governance by lowering levels of corruption.

The private sector had also seen massive change, she said, noting that, in 2007, 1.2 billion women were in paid work, compared to 1.8 billion men.  However, a gender wage gap still existed, which Norway had sought to address through a quota on corporate boards.  Such quotas responded to the perception that, without pressure, gender bias would continue to produce male leadership.  Three arenas in particular had glaring gaps:  peace talks; traditional leadership; and financial-sector management and regulation.  Other serious challenges involved women’s ability to transform a political entitlement to a sense of political legitimacy and the emerging problem of women shunning gender equality.

Panellist Francisco Cos-Montiel, Senior Programme Specialist in the Women’s Rights and Citizenship Programme of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), in Canada, said that much of the enthusiasm for decentralizing public services, resources and decision-making was based on the logic that it was good for women and advanced their representation in local decision-making.  The reality, however, was not so clear-cut. Women’s participation in local government often reinforced their traditional role as caregivers and homemakers, rather than helping them gain more influence over decisions affecting them.

For example, women in the southern Indian state of Kerala occupied more than one third of local government seats, due to constitutional amendments which reserved that amount for women nationwide.  But most of the locally elected women interviewed in Kerala saw themselves as social workers whose role was to distribute resources to meet people’s basic needs.  Rarely did they occupy powerful political positions, and leaders of male-dominated political parties showed little interest in expanding the scope of women’s participation.

He suggested that minimal conditions, such as gender quotas, should be introduced where they did not already exist ‑‑ and expanded and given teeth where they did.  Women’s participation should be made mandatory on budget and finance committees, where their involvement tended to be very rare.  Raising male awareness about women’s political representation and participation was also crucial so that women were allowed to speak in councils or local participatory bodies.  As prerequisites to positively associating decentralization to the equal participation of men and women, he said women must be organized and represented politically; their participation must be engaged at all levels of Government; and international support for decentralization policies should be monitored to ensure that they did not ignore or undermine local democracy and women’s rights.

Highlighting the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, its Chairperson, Naela Gabr, expert from Egypt, drew attention to a “first of its kind” visit by Committee members to a State party ‑‑ Luxembourg ‑‑ to discuss implementation of the experts’ concluding observations.  The visit demonstrated how important it was for States parties to interact with members of treaty bodies at the national level.  She also noted the recent adoption by the Committee of General Recommendation 26, on women migrant workers, and its start of work on two new general recommendations ‑‑ on older women and on the economic consequences of divorce.  It had also recently adopted statements on “the recent military engagement in Gaza between Israel and the Hamas” and “the international crisis and its consequences on the human rights of women and girls”.

During the resumed general discussion this afternoon, speakers from developing and developed countries alike underscored national efforts to promote the equal sharing of caregiving responsibilities among women and men, including in the context of HIV/AIDS ‑‑ a priority theme of the Commission’s session.  Commission Chairperson Olivier Belle ( Belgium) moderated the meeting.

Participating in the interactive dialogue with the panellists were the representatives of Zambia, Colombia, Belgium, Indonesia, Switzerland, Gabon, Cuba, Czech Republic (on behalf of the European Union), Turkey, Canada, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Niger, Finland, Paraguay, Spain, Republic of Korea, China, Tonga, Ghana, Sudan, United Kingdom, South Africa, New Zealand, United States, Mexico, Israel, Malaysia, Pakistan, Denmark, Egypt, Iran, Senegal, Netherlands, Kazakhstan and the Philippines.

The Observer for Niue (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum) also spoke.

Representatives of Union de l’Action Feminine, Femmes Afrique Solidarité, and the National Association AL-HIDN also made statements.

During the afternoon’s general discussion, ministers from New Zealand, Congo and Samoa, spoke, as did senior officials from Paraguay, Burkina Faso, Thailand, United Kingdom, Nepal, Turkey, Israel, Gabon, Portugal, Japan and Palau.

Also speaking were the representatives of Cuba, Morocco, Algeria, Estonia (on behalf of the UNIFEM Consultative Committee), Denmark, Malta, China, Qatar, El Salvador and Tonga.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 9 March, to conclude its general discussion.

Background

The Commission on the Status of Women met today to continue its general discussion on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.  It also held an interactive dialogue on “Equal participation of women and men in decision-making processes at all levels”.

Interactive Panel on Equal Participation of Women and Men in Decision-Making

Launching the panel discussion, moderator OLIVIER BELLE ( Belgium) said international legal instruments had widely recognized women’s participation in decision-making as critical to advancing democratic governance, development and peace.  The Beijing Platform for Action emphasized women’s equal access to, and full participation in, decision-making, while Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security underscored their fundamental role in those processes.

“Women’s participation in Government decision-making bodies improves the quality of governance,” he said, noting increasing evidence that the number of women on corporate boards made good business sense.  However, commitments related to gender equality in decision-making at political and other levels had not yet been met:  women faced obstacles related to persistent poverty, a lack of access to education, and the unequal division of unpaid work.  Moreover, there was a prevalence of masculine models of senior-level decision-making.  To improve policy development, he urged expanding the knowledge base in various areas of decision-making where there was a lack of reliable data.

With that, panellist ANNE MARIE GOETZ, Chief Adviser for Governance, Peace and Security at the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), said “this has been a record year in women’s presence as public decision makers”.  The most obvious arena in which women were appearing was in national and local politics.  Rwanda topped world tables in that regard, having elected a parliament with 56 per cent women, and bringing forward a “new definition of parity”.  Elsewhere, the global average of women had increased from 11.6 per cent of seats in 1995 to about 18.4 per cent today.

She said that what had made a difference, regardless of electoral systems, was the existence of quotas.  According to UNIFEM’s projected timeline to parity, in nations with quotas, it would take between 18 and 22 years to attain 40 per cent of women in public office.  In those with proportional representation systems, it would take 35 years.  In those without such systems, it would take 72 years.  Some 30 countries had exceeded 30 per cent of women in politics.  The question was how to translate that numeric presence into strategic influence over policymaking.  That depended on such factors as the strength of women’s movement, the nature of the political system, and particularly that of the political parties, which were the most important institutions for aggregating public interest.  Often, political parties failed to respond to barriers women faced in seeking office:  culture and cash, among them.

Regarding women in national Government, she said women created change in terms of channelling public budgets to women’s issues.  They also had a “role modelling” effect, perhaps their most powerful role, in attracting more women into politics.  Research in the United Kingdom showed that women voters turned out in higher numbers when there was a woman to vote for.  There was also impact on corruption.  Studies had shown that women’s impact on lowering corruption levels was linked to fact that they got into office in countries with democratic systems.

She highlighted two areas of public service that were notably important, namely, justice and law enforcement, which the Commission should track to determine women’s impact on decision-making.  Women in the judiciary remained very low, but women in international courts were starting to make a difference in pioneering jurisprudence.  The private sector had seen massive change.  In 2007, 1.2 billion women were in paid work, compared to 1.8 billion men.  However, the gender wage gap was significant around the world.  As for women’s market leadership positions, Norway was the only country that had tried to address that through a quota on corporate boards.  Such quotas responded to the perception that, without pressure, gender bias would continue to produce male leadership.  One in ten men could expect to enter senior management.  For women in Eastern Europe, the ratio was 1 in 42.  As for “what’s behind the woman in power”, she said the question was:  to whom did political, corporate or traditional leaders feel accountable?

There were three arenas where gaps remained:  peace talks; traditional leadership; and financial-sector management and regulation.  In that context, she drew attention to a New York Times story by Nicholas Kristof, in which he wondered if the global situation would be any different today had now-bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers been called “Lehman Sisters”, or even “Lehman Brothers and Sisters”.  Citing a study showing that men were particularly likely to make high-risk bets when under financial pressure and surrounded by other males of similar status, Mr. Kristof pointed to another study showing that women’s risk-taking was not impacted by such pressure.

Among the serious challenges women faced, Ms. GOETZ noted the ability to transform a political entitlement to a sense of political legitimacy; a high attrition rate among women who dropped out of decision-making; investment in measures to help women to balance their obligations; and the emerging problem of women shunning gender equality, which was not the best path to a political career.

FRANCISCO COS-MONTIEL, Senior Programme Specialist in the Women’s Rights and Citizenship Programme of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada, said much of the enthusiasm for decentralization of public services, resources and decision-making was based on the logic that it was good for women, and advanced women’s rights and women’s representation in local decision-making.  The reality, however, was not so clear-cut.  Localization had its limits and women were not a homogenous constituency.  Decentralization advanced gender equity, but not all women were affected equally by it.  Decentralization reform worldwide was promoted as a way to deepen democracy and improve development.  But the Centre’s research in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America had showed that those processes had not sufficiently been gender-sensitive.  Researchers looking at whether decentralization fostered women’s participation in decision-making revealed that it could be just as hard for women to be involved in Government at the local level as at the national level.

For example, he continued, in South Africa the Centre’s research team had found that conservative local politics made it difficult for women to get elected.  Gains in women’s representation at the local level depended on national initiatives such as the decision of the African National Congress to introduce equal representation for women on all their party lists.  Women’s participation in local government often reinforced women’s traditional role as caregivers and homemakers, rather than helping them to gain more influence over decisions affecting them.  In the southern Indian state of Kerala, women occupied more than one third of local government seats due to constitutional amendments which reserved that amount for women nationwide.  But most of the locally elected women interviewed in Kerala saw themselves as social workers whose role was to distribute resources to meet people’s basic needs.  Rarely did they occupy powerful political positions, and leaders of male-dominated political parties showed little interest in expanding the scope of women’s participation.

Much of the research found that quotas for women were the key to securing a significant presence for them in municipal councils, local water committees and other local decision-making bodies, he said.  But quotas were not enough to turn women’s presence into positions of influence.  Researchers concluded that minimal conditions such as gender quotas should be introduced where they did not already exist, and expanded and given teeth where they did.  The threshold could be raised to 50 per cent and national Governments could sanction local governments that failed to meet them.  Rules establishing gender quorums ‑‑ requiring that a minimum number of women be present before a decision could be made ‑‑ should also be set up.  Women’s participation should be made mandatory on budget and finance committees, where women’s involvement tended to be very rare.  Raising male awareness about women’s political representation and participation was also crucial so that women were allowed to speak and felt comfortable doing so in councils or local participatory bodies.  Men, too, must be willing to listen to them.

Despite formidable challenges, success stories did exist, he said, noting that many women were being elected to local government and were getting involved in local development committees and other participatory institutions.  Researchers in South Africa reported that large numbers of women attended planning meetings, despite active discouragement from local elites.  Women elsewhere expressed enthusiasm for the opportunities provided by decentralization to work in public, gain new skills and experience, and help other women.  Many projects around the world highlighted the importance of mobilizing civil society to support women’s access to local decision-making.  For example, in El Salvador and Honduras, pressure from women’s groups in hundreds of municipalities had led to the creation of gender offices that administered projects for women, gender mainstreaming or initiatives on issues such as domestic violence.  Changing the way men and women thought about women’s representation was a complex, long-term process.  To make local governments more responsive to women, action was needed to help change mindsets and behaviour, including gender-awareness training for men in councils and bureaucracies.

He said the policy recommendations emerging from the November 2008 international conference on “Decentralization, Local Power and Women’s Rights” in Mexico City brought to the global agenda a women’s rights and gender equality perspective in local decision-making.  Three prerequisites were needed in order for decentralization to be positively associated with the equal participation of men and women.  First, women must be organized and represented politically.  Otherwise, decentralization was only an administrative exercise that ignored women’s interests and priorities.  Second, decentralization was best pursued through well-lubricated intergovernmental relations in the context of a strong State.  Women’s participation must be engaged at all levels of Government.  Third, international support for decentralization policies should be monitored to ensure that it did not ignore or undermine local democracy and women’s rights, through overemphasis on administrative decentralization.

In the ensuing dialogue, representatives shared national experiences, and asked about strategies that would help change women’s ambivalence towards participating in public life.  They also questioned whether quotas for women’s access to leadership positions could be increased, or whether constitutional provisions would be more effective in the long-run.  One developing country participant asked how women could even begin accessing decision-making when they were often not taken seriously as individuals in some countries.  Another delegate stressed that a holistic approach to enhancing women in decision-making processes was needed, with “buy-in” both at the highest Government levels and among specialized non-governmental organizations.

The representative of the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union, highlighted the link between increased women’s participation in public life and democracies.  She asked for guidance on increasing women’s participation in emerging democracies, and further, about other international measures that might improve their presence in conflict resolution and in post-conflict reconstruction decision-making.

The representative of Burkina Faso asked about national strategies that would harness the resources for helping women who wanted to become involved in politics.

Kenya’s representative lamented that no clear strategies had been presented on how to change men’s behaviour and stereotypical attitudes towards women.  Were there any good examples or studies of how men’s attitudes and behaviours had been changed?  Noting that male candidates usually received more money than female candidates, Finland’s representative recommended laws to increase transparency in political party financing.  Paraguay’s representative asked the panellists to comment on training obstacles that women faced once they were in decision-making posts.  Spain’s representative asked if any studies showed whether women tended to hold leadership posts for a long time or just for a limited period.  The Republic of Korea’s representative asked for practical strategies to help Governments partner more effectively with the private sector to bring more women into decision-making posts.

Other questions centred on improving women’s participation in private-sector decision-making and efforts to promote parity.

The representative of Israel asked about structural factors obstructing fair representation of women in institutions.

The representative of Malaysia was greatly concerned at the low representation of women in her country’s labour market and public life.  The central bank was headed by a woman, however, but in politics, the number of women elected to parliament had increased only modestly.  She asked about best practices for increasing demand for women candidates in the political arena.

One Middle Eastern representative equated the global situation to a “chess play” in which less economically powerful countries were doomed to checkmate.  Advocating for women’s participation in an unfair global order would not achieve results.

The representative of Senegal asked about UNIFEM’s role in supporting decision-making bodies.

The representative of the Philippines noted that, while her country had a female President, and had made other progress in increasing women’s participation in political life, notably in law enforcement, she said that for gender quotas to work, they should be complemented by gender-sensitivity training programmes.  She asked about models for gender-based indicators for women and men in decision-making processes at different levels.

Ms. GOETZ, responding to the query on whether numbers of women in public office indicated women’s empowerment, she said Millennium Development Goal 3 treated the numbers as a proxy indicator of women’s empowerment.  Perhaps a better indicator of Government’s responsiveness to women’s needs was the quality of public services that took women’s needs into account.  What did good governance from the gender perspective look like?  A well-functioning democracy translated into increased women in decision-making.  New indicators were needed about the quality of governance ‑‑ including on how representative those in Government were of those who voted.

On increasing women’s participation in private and public sectors, she said that, in the public sector, people responded to a “social compact” in the constitution.  France and Argentina had pioneered “constitutionalized” quotas.  Given that commitment to equality, it was acceptable to require political parties to be attentive to gender in such things as financing.  In the private sector, corporations were responsive to the market, rather than to a social compact.  As such, women’s leadership had to make market sense ‑‑ and it did, but that meant using corporate and consumer marketing strategies to tap into a desire for women’s participation.

To a question about achieving a gender-diverse outcome to the upcoming “G-20” (economic) summit, she focused on market oversight.  When markets could easily devastate futures for so many, regulatory systems must be strengthened, and those systems must be more open to civil society, including women.

Mr. COS-MONTIEL focused on increasing men’s support of women in decision-making positions.  The first argument was that such support was a matter of justice; a policy leader that did not enforce gender equality was not committed to justice.  The second argument was that excluding women undercut development.  Every economist and lawyer should be educated about those issues.  Excluding a gender perspective was not sound public policy.  He also encouraged men’s involvement in domestic work, and suggested developing a quota for including men in gender studies.

Statement by Chair of Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee

Opening the afternoon discussion, NAELA GABR, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said the equal sharing of caregiving was critical to creating an environment in which the objectives of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women could be realized.  With 185 States parties to the Convention, and 96 States parties having ratified or acceded to its Optional Protocol, she encouraged those that were not yet a party to those instruments to become parties as soon as possible.

As for the Committee, she said eight new members had begun their four-year terms on 1 January, and a new Bureau had been elected at the Committee’s forty-third session for 2009-2010.  The Committee was grateful to the General Assembly for granting an extension of its meeting time for 2010 to three annual sessions of three weeks, which would allow it to clear the backlog in reports of States parties awaiting review.  The Committee intended to continue its efforts to ensure that incoming reports were considered in a timely manner.  It had requested 20 States parties with long-overdue initial reports to submit them by a specified date.  Failing their receipt within the time frame, the Committee would proceed with consideration of the Convention’s implementation in the States parties concerned.  For the first time, it would consider the Convention’s implementation in a State party in the absence of a report, but in the presence of a delegation.

After 25 years of work, servicing of the Committee had been transferred in January 2008 from the Division for the Advancement of Women to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, she noted.  Among other things, the Committee had taken full advantage of the support provided by that Office, continued to work with treaty bodies on issues of common concern ‑‑ including through participation in annual meetings of chairpersons ‑‑ and was working with the High Commissioner on a joint seminar to examine the Convention’s relevance to the “protection of women of concern”.

Stressing that the Committee’s sessions had been characterized by the strong participation of non-governmental organizations, she noted that, in September 2009, at the invitation of Luxembourg, a Committee delegation had conducted its first ever follow-up visit to a State party to discuss implementation of the experts’ concluding observations.  At its forty-second session, the Committee adopted General Recommendation 26 ‑‑ on women migrant workers ‑‑ and continued its work on the draft of general recommendation on article 2.  It also started work on two new general recommendations ‑‑ on older women and on the economic consequences of divorce.  At its forty-third session, it adopted statements on “the recent military engagement in Gaza between Israel and the Hamas” and “the international crisis and its consequences on the human rights of women and girls”.  This year, amid celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention’s adoption, focus should be on implementation, progress made and further steps.  She reiterated the Committee’s readiness to continue its close cooperation with the Commission.

General Discussion

SHENAGH GLEISNER, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs of New Zealand, said New Zealand was committed to women having real choices and being able to use their strengths to maximize their and the nation’s social and economic success.  New Zealand supported gender equality because it was strongly committed to its international obligations to advance women’s rights, and because no nation could afford to waste any of its human resources.  The current global recession should not be used as an excuse to slow progress towards women’s full participation in all areas of society and the economy.  On the contrary, the economic challenges made it even more important for nations to make the best use of women’s skills.  New Zealand was also mindful of the disproportionate risk that the economic crisis posed for women and girls, as well as for the full achievement of gender equality, particularly in partner developing countries.

She said that women could only participate in decision-making if their time was not overwhelmingly taken up with responsibilities within the family and community.  It was crucial to help women achieve their full potential.  New Zealand women were entering the paid workforce in increasing numbers, and efforts were being made to increase their participation in governance.  In the State sector, nearly 42 per cent of people in governance roles were women, and New Zealand was committed to increasing that percentage to 50.  New Zealand’s foreign aid programme supported various initiatives that addressed the gender dimensions of health, disability, gender-based violence and governance in the Pacific.

TERESITA SILVERO, Director of Cabinet, Secretariat of Women of Paraguay, said that, in her country, discrimination had been identified as a main barrier to progress on combating HIV/AIDS.  State policies on discrimination were still weak and did not provide enough rights to those living with the disease.  The country had seen an increase in women with HIV/AIDS and had developed a comprehensive health programme that aimed to include a gender perspective.  The goal of it was to reduce maternal mortality and increase family planning by making sufficient services available.  An institutional team had been created to help achieve that.

On sexual and reproductive health in the context of HIV/AIDS, and national guidance on the diseases, she said Paraguay had analysed the effects of the disease on sex workers.  The general prevalence of condom use had increased, and there was a greater demand for contraception.  The national programme for HIV control guided the Government’s response to various diseases, and its provision of services.  On the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, women were often dependent on men as breadwinners.  In closing, she said Paraguay attached importance to gender and the need to have strong gender policies.

ILEANA B. NÚÑEZ MORDOCHE (Cuba) said that, although countries had committed themselves in Beijing to enhance national capacities to combat HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, the drain of medical personnel, the lack of efficient public health services and of access to proper treatment in poor countries had brought about the fast and unequal dissemination of those diseases, particularly in developing countries.  Regrettably, that particularly impacted women and girls.  Cuba had shown the political will to promote women’s advancement, including the equal responsibility of men and women.  Cuba strictly followed up the commitments undertaken at world conferences and, in the second half of this year, it would host the third national seminar on the follow-up to Beijing.

Continuing, she outlined the country’s efforts to achieve gender equality, including the promotion of women’s participation, the review of the Family Code, the new maternity leave law and measures to promote women’s health.  Cuba had been the first country to sign and the second to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Women represented 43.32 per cent of the members of Parliament, which was one of the highest percentages worldwide and the highest in the region.  Cuba was also among the 14 countries with the lowest incidence of AIDS worldwide, thanks to the national control and prevention programme.  Despite financial difficulties and lack of resources, Cuba also assisted other peoples.  For example, almost 51,000 Cuban professionals and technicians were currently rendering their services in 96 countries, including 38,000 Cubans, mostly women, who were working in the health sector.  An eye-surgery programme, “Operation Miracle”, had restored the sight of more than 1.3 million patients from 33 countries, between July 2004 and October 2008.  More than 30,000 youths from 124 countries and five overseas territories were studying in Cuba.

In conclusion, she drew attention to an issue of special concern to the Cuban people:  for 10 years, the United States Government had prevented two Cuban women, Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva, from visiting their husbands, who were illegally imprisoned in the United States for the sole reason of trying to stop terrorist actions against the Cuban people and the United States, itself.  The denial of visas to those women disregarded the provisions of international law, which clearly expressed the right of prisoners to be visited by their relatives, which also contravened the provisions of United States legislation.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said the situation of gender inequality illustrated the need to evaluate progress made in achieving the goals set forth in the Beijing Platform for Action.  The consequences of the unequal sharing of responsibilities between men and women were clear.  Underrepresentation of women in all aspects of life had a negative effect on poverty reduction strategies.  Gender equality was needed in all economic activities.  There must be equal responsibility in caregiving and the education of children.  Morocco had made some progress with regard to achieving women’s empowerment and the Millennium Development Goals.  Gender mainstreaming was necessary for development, and Morocco’s Government was taking proactive steps to achieve it, with the participation of civil society.

Noting that his Government had adopted a national strategy for equality between the sexes and it had mainstreamed gender into budgeting and budget analyses, he said that had enabled the Government to better identify challenges of equal access for women in terms of public life and their public contribution to democracy, he said.  Thirty-four of Morocco’s parliamentarians were women and seven women were cabinet ministers.  Legislation allowed Moroccan mothers to pass on their Moroccan citizenship to their children in cases where the father of the child was a foreigner.  Morocco’s decision to lift its reservation to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was a testament to its commitment to anchor democracy based on human rights.  Revision of the Labour Code eliminated gender discrimination in employment and aimed to end sexual harassment in the workplace.  HIV/AIDS caregiving required the mobilization of all stakeholders.  It was also necessary to ensure universal access to prevention and treatment by 2015.  Governments must take national action.  For its part, Morocco had a strategic plan for 2008-2009 for HIV/AIDS.

ISABELLE B. DIALLO, Technical Counsellor, Ministry for the Promotion of Women of Burkina Faso, said her country had 120,000 adults living with HIV/AIDS.  Among women of childbearing age, there was a 2.3 per cent prevalence rate.  National measures were framed, in part, by a national policy on the promotion of women.  There had been a feminization of the pandemic in Burkina Faso, and both men and women had been called on to be leaders in addressing the disease.  Her Government had drawn attention to the need to mainstream gender, and to share caregiving responsibilities for those with the disease.

Towards sharing those responsibilities, Burkina Faso had launched awareness-raising campaigns that targeted young men and women and sought to prevent vertical transmission, she said.  There were also associations working with communities to help women in their caregiving duties, and the National Council in the Fight against AIDS was working with partners to reduce young people’s vulnerability to the disease.  The Government had ratified the Women’s Convention and its Optional Protocol.  The Women’s Commission made a valuable contribution to the mainstreaming of equal sharing of responsibilities in the context of HIV/AIDS.  She called for international resources to mobilize programmes aimed at achieving such a balance.

KANDA VAJRABHAYA, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security of Thailand, aligning herself with the statements of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the outbreak of HIV/AIDS around the world had created a substantial burden within the care economy, which fell mostly on women.  Among various measures to increase men’s responsibility in the household, she highlighted the “Prevention of Mother to Child HIV Transmission” policy, which had reduced infection in children.  To address perceptions of women as the “natural” caregivers, the “Thai Women’s Development Plan” promoted equal values and dignity among women and men alike.  On equal participation in decision-making, the small numbers of women in politics did not allow for critical influence in policymaking that visibly impacted change.  As such, it was no surprise that it was difficult to persuade people to elect women to political office.

She said Thailand had developed a comprehensive collection and supporting system to promote use of gender-disaggregated data, for gender analysis, in line with the Women’s Convention, among other instruments.  Data was collected from units such as the National Statistics Office, as well as the Ministries of Public Health, Education, Labour, among others.  Thailand would monitor the financial crisis through its gender-disaggregated database.  As many factories, especially those in the garment and food industries, had been closed down, women workers, who formed the majority of those businesses, were at risk of losing their jobs.

SARAH MORGAN, Head of Women at Risk, Government Equalities Office, United Kingdom, aligning herself with the European Union, said women’s ability to play an active role in addressing the challenges of the financial crisis was affected by their extensive caring responsibilities, and in many cases, discrimination in access to resources.  There was an opportunity to create a “virtuous circle” of economic and political participation by women, being supported by ‑‑ and in turn creating ‑‑ the conditions for increased sharing of caregiving.  Women had made great progress in recent decades.  In her country, the median full-time gender pay gap had fallen from 28 per cent in 1982 to 12.8 per cent today, and in developing countries, 95 primary school-aged girls for every 100 boys attended school.

However, she said, there was still a long way to go.  A key issue affecting the gender pay gap was women’s disproportionate share of caregiving.  She outlined various domestic measures to promote parental choice in balancing work and family life, notably in the area of caregiving for people with HIV/AIDS.  Internationally, the Department for International Development supported programmes to achieve universal access to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.  To help women impacted by the global economic downturn, there were measures in place, such as child tax credits, the right to 52 weeks maternity leave for pregnant employees and legal protection from discrimination.  Promoting gender equality in all aspects of life was a key priority, including for the United Kingdom’s development assistance.

JEANNE FRANÇOISE LECKOMBA LOUMETO, Minster of the Promotion and Integration of Women and Development of the Congo, said her Government had signed various international instruments on human rights, including the Women’s Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the African Charter on Human Rights.  The Congo held dear the principles of respecting freedoms, and it guaranteed equal rights for men and women.  It was necessary to ensure equal responsibility between men and women in order to build a fairer society.  Implementing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) was the collective responsibility of the international community.  The participation of men and women in the equal sharing of responsibilities was absolutely necessary, as was ensuring better coordination of family and work life.

She said that HIV/AIDS caregiving in particular required equal responsibility between men and women.  Equality between men and women affected access to health care.  The Government had set up a National Council for the fight to end HIV/AIDS to reduce the vulnerability of women to HIV/AIDS and the consequences and impact of the disease.  Its strategic framework for 2009-2013 benefited from financial and technical aid to combat the scourge.  In 2007, the Government made available free-of-charge HIV/AIDS screening and biological testing.  Ending violence was necessary.  Better representation of women in decision-making was also necessary, including to help reduce poverty among women.

BINDRA HADA BHATTARAI, Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare of Nepal, said gender equality and women’s empowerment should remain the United Nations utmost priority.  The Organization should make greater strides in shaping global policies by setting different norms and standards in the quest for women’s advancement.  The outcome of the 2005 World Summit for Social Development and the Beijing Declaration were landmarks that had provided a foundation for investment in gender equality, but she urged that more be done.

For its part, Nepal had adopted a rights-based approach to women’s social, economic and political empowerment of women.  Gender equality and gender mainstreaming were important, and Nepal had provided for equal property and citizenship rights for women, and for their representation in at least one third of elected bodies.  Recent policies and programmes fully adhered to the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality at all levels.  The Government had implemented a gender-responsive budget initiative, which took into account women’s advancement.  Nepal was committed to putting in place an arrangement to take strong action against gender-based criminal offences.

LEYLA COSKUN, Deputy Director-General of the General Directorate on the Status of Women of Turkey, said gender division of labour that relegated the burden of household and family care responsibilities to women, including care of children, the elderly and the sick, hampered women’s access to education and employment opportunities and their equal participation in social life.  Women who could find work were confronted with shouldering the double burden of unpaid domestic tasks and family care.  Their demands and needs were neglected since they had no say in family power structures.  People with HIV/AIDS required constant caregiving, aggravating the psychological pressure and workload of women.  Since most caregiving was provided by women in the household as unpaid labour, women’s enormous contribution to the economy went unnoticed in economic indicators.

She said that concerted efforts by all pertinent actors were necessary to develop substantial solutions to those challenges.  Turkey had legal arrangements in place that regulated equality between women and men in social, political and economic life.  Equality between men and women before the law was one of the basic principles of the Turkish Constitution.  The amendment to article 90 of the Constitution gave supremacy to international conventions concerning basic rights and freedoms, and it put the Women’s Convention above all other legal arrangements, in case of a conflict.  The Civil Code and Penal Code had been completely amended and, last month, a Parliamentary Commission on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men was established.

MAZAL RENFORD, Director, The Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center of Israel, said the reasons for the increased feminization of HIV/AIDS were complex, but included tradition, as well as legal, social and economic discrimination.  Approaches to addressing those issues should be equally wide-ranging and should incorporate employment creation and entrepreneurship assistance.  Meaningful health education programmes, along with economic and legal empowerment, could go far in protecting women and helping them to assert themselves and their rights.  Civil society and Government should also support education campaigns aimed at reducing the stigma attached to the disease.

She said Israel’s efforts to achieve gender parity relied on three mechanisms:  the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women, the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.  Two months ago, a law also came into force that required a gender-impact assessment for all proposed legislation.  Another recent labour law allowed for both parents to share parental leave, while additional legislation gave financial incentives to businesses for hiring women and promoting female employees to senior management positions.  MASHAV, a branch of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs established to provide aid to the developing world, promoted the equal sharing of responsibility between men and women in its training programmes, including those addressing the feminization of HIV/AIDS.

Noting that armed conflict took its toll on women on all sides of any dispute, she said women needed access to negotiation from the earliest possible stages to effectively promote their interests, including in a peaceful settlement.  Towards that end, Israeli law mandated that women must be included in any group undertaking peacebuilding negotiations.  While the existing situation was not good for either Palestinian or Israeli women, the statement by the Palestinian Minister for Women’s Affairs had conspicuously made no mention of Hamas or terrorism.  That was regrettable since ongoing terrorism impeded women’s programmes, and that issue should be addressed.

YOUSRIA BERRAH (Algeria), aligning herself with the statements of the Group of 77 developing countries and China and the Non-Aligned Movement, said her country was pursuing various efforts to ensure equality in the political, economic and social spheres.  New progress had been made:  women were becoming the “engine of their own emancipation”.  They were a vector of change.  Women represented more than 50 per cent of university teachers, more than 60 per cent of medical staff, and 25 per cent of journalists.  Progress had been made in women’s access to high-level State posts and, legislatively, changes had been made to the Nationality Code, giving citizenship to all children born to Algerian mothers.

She said actions undertaken for women’s empowerment were part of a broader framework of initiatives by the African Union.  In Africa, women were first to suffer from poverty, armed conflict and HIV/AIDS.  As such, the Heads of State in Africa had made integration of gender into policies and development programmes a priority.  They were “unreservedly” committed to that goal.  In that context, she highlighted the adoption of the African Union policy on gender, and the decision to declare 2010 to 2020 the Decade of African Women.  The United Nations and other actors were being deployed in those efforts in the region.

LUAGALAU ELISA FOISAGAASINA ETEUATI SHON, Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development of Samoa, said her country was blessed with a unique culture that guaranteed the sharing of responsibilities with families and communities to ensure that children, the elderly and persons with disabilities were taken care of.  The same concept of sharing and collective caring formed the basis for child-rearing and childcare.  The unique strengths of Samoan culture very much informed policy development, programme design and interventions.  The National Strategy for the Development of Samoa identified the revival of the village economy as a key priority for the next five years.  In that context, the Community Sector Plan would focus on how a community’s development could support national development.

She said that community strength-based models of programme intervention were used to address sensitive issues such as child protection and HIV/AIDS.  They had recently been adopted by the Ministry of Health to promote community responsibility for health, including as part of efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, which were the leading cause of death in Samoa, particularly among women.  Work had begun on the draft domestic violence legislation, in line with the concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Women’s Convention it monitors and the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s legislative compliance reviews.  Samoa was committed to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

BERNADETTE BIYOGHE NKOUELE, Technical Counsellor for the Ministry of Family and Promotion of Women of Gabon, said that legislative frameworks did not sufficiently improve equality between men and women.  Actions must target public opinion, which was a major challenge, and efforts must aim to change mindsets.  Her Ministry had undertaken measures to achieve a joint understanding of inequality.  With the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), it had put in place initiatives to mainstream gender into policies.  Those efforts should be taken as far as possible.

She urged greater efforts to ensure that future generations understood the priority importance of gender equality.  Indeed, the future lay in the equal sharing of responsibilities.  The Women’s Convention and the Beijing outcome highlighted areas for action.  The current session of the Commission would also shed light on how to ensure the equal sharing of responsibilities, particularly in the context of caregiving for those with HIV/AIDS.  “We can take action today to ensure that the future is brighter,” she said.

TIINA INTELMANN ( Estonia), speaking on behalf of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Consultative Committee, said women and girls provided an estimated 90 per cent of the care needs generated by HIV/AIDS.  Most of them received little or no material support.  The demographic change caused by HIV/AIDS had increased the vulnerability of already vulnerable groups, such as youth, the elderly, widows and orphans.  Grandmothers and girls had to step in to take care of the sick, the latter often at the expense of their schooling.  Men’s involvement in caregiving continued to be perceived as deviating from tradition.  There was a need to promote a multisectoral approach to HIV/AIDS, involving the education and transport sectors to address all barriers to access to health services, including the lack of transport and trained health-care workers.

She said that UNIFEM programming in that field included support to time-use studies and advocacy for including the economic contribution of unpaid work into national accounts.  It also involved advocacy for including part-time and informal work in labour protection legislation, as well as extending social protection to those working inside and outside the home.  In the Caribbean, UNIFEM had been working to strengthen the response to HIV/AIDS through capacity-building to develop gender responsive, rights-based HIV service delivery in the health and education sectors.  UNIFEM’s experience had confirmed that the crucial elements for tackling the care needs created by HIV/AIDS were recognizing and valuing the caregiving, providing resources to support it and organized home and community-based care programmes, providing information to caregivers and creating supportive policies, particularly in the health and social sectors.

JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) said that, over the past year, his country had been investing robustly in promoting gender equality policies that had been set out in its budget for 2007-2013.  Some €83 million had been allocated, representing a 65 per cent increase over previous years, for projects including gender equality plans in local and central administration, as well as in public and private enterprises to ensure reconciliation of work with family and private life.

He said the Government’s efforts also supported women’s entrepreneurship, and provided technical and financial assistance to non-governmental organizations and other civil society groups.  The Government also remained concerned about violence against women and had adopted policies that had significantly impacted women’s rights and gender equality.  In the wake of the launch last year of the Secretary-General’s global women’s anti-violence campaign, Portugal had last November initiated its own awareness-raising campaign, targeting teenagers and young adults.  That plan focused on preventing violence in dating and relationships, and it was already changing young people’s attitudes and behaviour.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged that much remained to be done to combat the devastating impact of domestic violence in Portuguese society.  Towards that goal, a new law on preventing such violence and providing protection and assistance to victims was currently being discussed in Parliament.  Another area of utmost concern was human trafficking and, to that end, Portugal had established a system to monitor such traffic and had also ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.  Among other initiatives under way to promote equality between men and women, Portugal had been fighting stereotypes and addressing parental leave policies.

YORIKO MEGURO ( Japan) reiterated that stereotyped notions of gender roles affected women disproportionately.  In terms of HIV/AIDS, for example, women and girls were vulnerable to the disease due to insufficient access to preventive measures and treatment, and they also bore a disproportionate burden as main caregivers.  Japan had a gender equality plan, based on law, to bring about a more gender-equal society.  It appeared as though people’s perceptions in Japan were changing:  a recent poll showed more than half of respondents were against the notion of “husbands as breadwinners” and “wives as caregivers”.  Even so, there remained an unequal division of responsibilities among the sexes ‑‑ women spent seven times longer than men on domestic work, and caregiving was handled by women roughly 80 per cent of the time.  In 2007, a group of stakeholders within the public and private sector produced a “Charter on Work-Life Balance”, whose accompanying document, the “Action Policy for Promoting Work-Life Balance”, provided targets for time spent on child-raising and housework by men.  In addition, efforts were being made to curb long working hours and improve childcare and family care leave, so that both women and men had options within which to balance work, family life and community activities.

On HIV/AIDS, she said Japan had funded various global efforts to enhance prevention, counselling and testing systems for HIV/AIDS in other countries, and to disseminate knowledge about the disease.  One particular project in Africa was focused on home-based care to be carried out by women, thus helping them to empower themselves.  At last year’s Tokyo International Conference on African Development, Japan pointed out the importance of gender equality in the context of global health.  At the G-8 (Group of Eight industrialized countries) Hokkaido Toyako Summit, Japan released a framework for action on global health that included a mechanism to follow-up on past G-8 commitments.  Commenting briefly on gender perspectives in the context of the financial crisis, she noted that the dismissal of non-regular workers was posing problems in society.  Even before the crisis, more than half of female workers were non-regular workers facing low wages and insecure work conditions.

IMELDA BAI NAKAMURA, Legal Counsel and Executive Director of VOICES, Palau, said that her country’s traditional leadership structure was based on equal participation by men and women, but colonization had eroded that structure over the past 80 years.  Nevertheless, the national Constitution provided for equal rights and, in a November 2008 national referendum, Palau’s people had voted to uphold their traditional and cultural heritage in a special constitutional measure that recognized the right of women to participate in traditional leadership roles.  For the first time in 28 years, two women were sworn into the Senate on 15 January, with one of them presiding as that body’s Vice-President.  Three women were also elected state governors.  Two women were also recently confirmed as members of the President’s Cabinet.  Yet temporary special measures were still needed to ensure that women held a minimum of 30 per cent of seats in national parliaments.

Underlining Palau’s low prevalence rate of HIV and AIDS, she said eight cases were documented in 2007.  Today, five of those eight infected persons had died, while three were currently living in Palau.  An additional positive test for HIV in 2008 had brought the total number of HIV-infected people in Palau to four.  Recognizing the critical effects of HIV on a small island nation was essential in the global response to HIV/AIDS.  Palau supported the Pacific Regional Strategy on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, which was in line with its own national strategy.  But further efforts were required to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support within a human rights framework and with special attention on young people’s needs.  She acknowledged the need for a response to care responsibilities in the promotion of equal sharing between women and men and their access to parental leave.  The current global financial crisis made the incorporation of gender perspective into all economic policymaking processes more critical.

CARSTEN STAUR ( Denmark) said it was unbelievable that in 2009, so many women around the world “had no rights to decide over their bodies” and were being denied the right to participate fully and equally in the development of their societies.  Recalling the tenets of equality and non-discrimination set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said such principles also included the right to decide on sexual and reproductive matters.

“Women all over the world must have access to information and preventive services that enable them to decide freely on matters relating to their sexuality and health,” he continued, stressing that this was a central issue to the gender inequalities that fed the HIV/AIDS pandemic, among other social ills.  Denmark had, therefore, been pleased that the current session had focused special attention on the disease, especially as more than two thirds of young people 15 to 24 living with AIDS was female.

He underscored that gender discrimination, social restrictions and poor access to education and employment all limited women’s opportunities and abilities to protect themselves from the deadly virus.  With that in mind, he said that, since women and young girls were also the main caregivers, it was crucial to remain focused on that element of the AIDS pandemic.  The battle against HIV/AIDS was a strategic priority for the Danish Government and it maintained its stated goal of providing 1 billion Danish crowns per year by 2010 to fight the disease.  He went on to highlight Denmark’s “MDG3 Global Call to Action” to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, which was the key to accelerating progress on other development goals, including fighting HIV/AIDS.

CLAUDE BONELLO ( Malta) said his country had made important strides in advancing gender equality, including through legislative measures.  Malta’s position was “generally” reflected in the statement delivered on behalf of the European Union, but any position taken or recommendations made regarding women’s empowerment and gender equality should not in any way create an obligation on any party to consider abortion as a legitimate form of reproductive health rights, services or commodities.  Abortion was illegal in Malta and not recognized as a family planning measure.  The Government had consistently expressed its reservation to the use of the terms “reproductive rights”, “reproductive services” and “control of fertility” in various international documents, among them, the Beijing Platform for Action and the Women’s Convention.  While Malta supported those instruments, it would uphold the reservations it had entered on the treatment of sexual and reproductive health and rights, at the time of their adoption.  He requested that that position be included in the meeting’s records.

Concerning the issue at hand, he welcomed the theme of equal sharing of responsibilities, as that was particularly relevant in the context of HIV/AIDS prevention.  Prevention was a major focus in Malta, especially since the number of HIV/AIDS cases was still small.  Malta was collaborating with the EuroHIV surveillance network to collect data on HIV/AIDS cases, taking care to include information on sex, year of birth, mode of transmission, year of HIV and AIDS diagnoses, year of death and stage of disease.  Within the context of caregiving and equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women, the Ministry of Social Policy was working to raise awareness of those issues in schools.  Sex education, through which students learned about HIV/AIDS, was now part of the national curriculum, and schools were mandated by law to offer it.  Awareness-raising campaigns were also being launched through the mass media.  Youth centres and university campuses were targeting young people, and employers or employees could invite the Health Promotion Directorate of the Health Ministry to conduct “work setting initiatives”.  Health professionals such as nurses, midwives, psychologists and HIV/AIDS teachers were being given appropriate training.

LIU ZHENMIN (China), aligning himself with the statement of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said his Government had worked to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by taking proactive measures to stabilize the economy and promote gender equality.  In the national plan of action on human rights, which would soon be published, there was a chapter devoted to protecting women’s rights.  In addition, there was a programme under way for the education of rural women.  China had endeavoured to encourage men to share responsibilities at home and to provide support to couples in homemaking.  In cooperation with the media, China had organized an election of “men of the times”, with a view to setting good examples.  Joint conferences on improving household management had also been organized.

He said that, in response to migration and the spread of HIV/AIDS, China had strengthened the protection of rural children left behind by migrant workers.  It also endeavoured to provide psychological help for AIDS orphans.  In the wake of last year’s earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province, China was implementing projects that involved psychological assistance and income augmentation for women in the disaster area.  In April, it would host an international conference on gender and disaster reduction.  Noting that 2010 was the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, he said there were formidable challenges ahead and he urged a deepening of international cooperation on the basis of respect for specific paths of country development.  He also called for full recognition of the effects of the financial crisis on women, attention to the care economy, improvement of the social security system and enhanced efforts to build domestic harmony.

ALYA AL-THANI ( Qatar) said the political will of the Government of Qatar had paved the way for creating an enabling environment for women.  Several years ago, Qatar’s Government had set up the Supreme Council for Family Affairs.  A gender dimension had been integrated into Qatar’s development policy, which called for achieving gender equality in terms of responsibilities, opportunities and rights.  A gender dimension had also been integrated into national strategies for the family and for preventing HIV/AIDS.  Men and women must share responsibilities equally.  She stressed the important role of spouses, which were the linchpin of the family and the basic unit of society.  It was essential to deal with the question of working women in a holistic manner to help them reconcile family and work life through adequate training, promotion and opportunity.

Under article 35 of Qatar’s Constitution, people were equal before the law, she said.  The Pension Law provided for the rights of working women, and the Council of Ministers provided federal housing support for them.  The Government had developed a wide range of responses and was studying the establishment of a mechanism to set up nurseries for children in the workplace.  The Supreme Council for Family Affairs was implementing national programmes to end gender stereotyping.  Qatar would host a conference on women’s advancement and gender equality in 2010 in Doha.  She called on States to support Palestinian women in Gaza in terms of health care and social services to help them mitigate the impact of the current crisis emanating from Israel’s occupation.

CARMEN MARÍA GALLARDO HERNÁNDEZ (El Salvador), aligning herself with the statements of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and the Rio Group, said her country attached importance to the fair division of responsibilities between women and men, including in the context of HIV/AIDS.  Her Government recognized that the impact of an uneven division was reflected in women’s ability to be actors, both in their own development and in that of their countries.  Non-remunerated work in the home was invisible and, as such, it had not been adequately recognized in the national economy.

She said that El Salvador’s national women’s policy referred to the issue of shared responsibility for family chores, she said.  The family was the primary source of socialization, from which social behaviour stemmed.  Family life was thus very important in building equality.  She recognized that unfair sharing was linked to gender discrimination, and her Government had carried out awareness-raising and training seminars, which she hoped would create fairer family relations.  On HIV/AIDS, El Salvador had intensified efforts with a view to universal access to treatment and care by 2010.  Also, the Ministry for Public Health and Welfare worked with 20 support groups, which received training in gender equality, self-esteem and responsible fatherhood and motherhood, among other things.

POLOTU FAKAFANUA-PAUNGA ( Tonga) said her country had enacted several policy changes and legislative reforms concerning women’s rights.  A Royal Land Commission appointed for a three-year term would deal with the issue of women’s inheritance in cases where there was no male heir.  The Nationality Act of 2007 made provisions for dual citizenship, which allowed the nationality of a person to be determined, not only by the nationality of his father, but by the nationality of his mother as well.  Female officers of the Tonga Defence Services could now continue their service after they married.  In 2007, the Ministry of Police set up the Domestic Violence Unit with a “no drop” policy that ensured that victims could not withdraw domestic assault charges once reported, thereby strengthening efforts to end gender-based violence.  The Constitutional and Electoral Commission set up in 2008 had received submissions on gender perspectives from civil society and women.

She said that, although Tonga’s HIV/AIDS infection rate was low, the Government was proactive in preventing its spread.  The 2009-2013 National HIV and Sexually-Transmitted Disease Plan had recently been launched.  Several areas needed more assistance, namely:  health education, including for safe sex; training professional HIV/AIDS medical officers; health services, including HIV advocacy, support, treatment and care; and funding for those services.  Tonga’s Government was proactive in improving women’s access to quality education, health-care services, employment and security.  Funding and assistance were needed for technology transfer, the strengthening of infrastructure, health care and education in rural areas, mainstreaming gender and capacity-building to increase women’s participation in the economy, and research and collection of gender-disaggregated data.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.