Education Is Key Driver of Economic Growth, Catalyst for Empowering Women, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Commission on Status of Women at Opening

22 February 2011

Education Is Key Driver of Economic Growth, Catalyst for Empowering Women, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Commission on Status of Women at Opening

22 February 2011
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Education Is Key Driver of Economic Growth, Catalyst for Empowering Women,


Deputy Secretary-General Tells Commission on Status of Women at Opening


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s opening remarks to the Commission on the Status of Women, today, 22 February, in New York:

I am honoured to join you once again for the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women.  This has been a significant 12 months for gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Last year, you reviewed the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 15 years after its adoption, highlighting many important advances.  But as the Economic and Social Council highlighted in its Ministerial Declaration in July, much work remains. 

In September, the Millennium Development Goals Summit recognized gender equality and women’s empowerment, not just as key goals in themselves, but as instrumental to all the Goals. The Summit also generated much-needed support for reducing maternal mortality and improving women's and children's health. 

The past year also saw the tenth anniversary of the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  Despite this landmark step, the rights of women in conflict and post-conflict situations continue to be violated. 

So, ladies and gentlemen, once again the report card is mixed.  But there was one other major event last year, one that we hope can help us build on the good, and consign the bad to history.  That development was, of course, the creation by the General Assembly of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women — UN Women.

In two days, we will meet to officially launch UN Women and celebrate this historic achievement.  Our hope is that UN Women will galvanize our worldwide efforts to realize the rights and opportunities of women and girls.  Make no mistake, this is a landmark commitment by Member States.  But, and importantly so, let us also take a moment to acknowledge the years of advocacy undertaken by the global women's movement — and to savour their success in making UN Women a reality.

UN Women will build on the strong foundation of international norms and policies developed by the United Nations over decades.  It will provide a strong and unified voice.  It will work throughout the United Nations system to strengthen coherence and to ensure accountability.  Ms. [Michelle] Bachelet will present a strategic plan for UN Women to its Executive Board in June.  I know she has all of our support, and that of the Secretary-General.

Women’s empowerment is one of the strategic opportunities the Secretary-General has identified for 2011.  Secretary-General Ban [Ki-moon] will work to ensure that UN Women becomes a fully integrated member of the United Nations family, and a dynamic force for women's empowerment everywhere.  And he will continue to work to increase the number of women decision-makers.  In the last four years, the number of women in senior leadership posts at the United Nations has increased.  These efforts will continue, but with added emphasis on expanding women’s representation in middle-management as well.

The Secretary-General will also continue to strengthen the United Nations system’s capacity to respond to, and combat, violence against women and children, including through his own “Unite to End Violence against Women” campaign and its “Network of Men Leaders”.  Looking to the future, with the new momentum that UN Women can bring, we hope to see Member States, as well as other stakeholders at the national level, work to strengthen laws, institute effective policies, provide support to victims, and improve the collection of essential data. 

Investing in women and girls is a force multiplier.  Education is one of the best of those investments, and it is rightly one of your main themes at this session.  Not only is education a key driver of economic growth, it is also a catalyst for empowering women.  Two thirds of illiterate adults are women.  This statistic has not changed in 20 years.  Global commitments to achieving universal primary education and gender parity, at all levels of education, have had a beneficial impact on girls’ enrolment and retention rates in many countries.

However, the quality of education has not kept pace, particularly in the developing world.  Many children leave school without basic literacy and numeracy skills.  Girls and women are underrepresented in science and technology, education and employment.  They are simply not getting the knowledge and skills they need for today’s competitive and changing job market.  Your discussions at this session can help connect the dots among those key issues affecting women’s prospects and well-being.

I encourage you to also explore how to reinforce the new Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, which aims to save the lives of more than 16 million women and children over the next four years.  I look forward to your contributions to the preparatory process for Rio 2012 — the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.  And I urge you to keep shining a spotlight on discrimination and violence against the girl child.

Achieving equality between women and men is central to achieving our common goals for development, human rights, and peace and security.  I wish you a productive session.  Thank you.

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