With Equal Rights, Empowerment, Women Can Be ‘Agents of Change’ for Sustained Socio-economic Development, Security around World, Third Committee Told

11 October 2011
GA/SHC/4009

With Equal Rights, Empowerment, Women Can Be ‘Agents of Change’ for Sustained Socio-economic Development, Security around World, Third Committee Told

11 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4009
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

11th & 12th Meetings (AM & PM)

With Equal Rights, Empowerment, Women Can Be ‘Agents of Change’ for Sustained

Socio-economic Development, Security around World, Third Committee Told

 

Hears Some 45 Speakers on Second Day of Advancement of Women Debate,

With States Describing National Steps Taken to Achieve Gender Equality

States needed to promote women’s rights, so they could be “agents of change” for sustained socio-economic development and security around the world, delegates told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as it continued its three-day discussion on the advancement of women.

“Without women’s empowerment and gender equality, societies will not be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and their full development potential,” South Africa’s delegate said.  She noted women had shown greater resolve in peace building processes, but their needs were overlooked in peace agreements, at donor conferences and in post-conflict legal reform — a situation that needed to be rectified.

A number of delegates agreed that ending discrimination against women was central in fulfilling women’s fundamental human rights.  It was also, some said, a prerequisite for sustainable development.  To that end, Peru’s youth delegate called for greater female political participation, saying that young women in particular must be seen as change agents.

Malaysia’s delegate told the Committee that significant progress in recent decades in his own country was made possible by greater participation of women.  “As Malaysia evolves from a subsistence agricultural economy to a knowledge-based economy, women will continue to be a primary force in influencing the development of future generations of Malaysians, as well as an important economic resource,” he said.

Throughout the day, representatives noted recent progress in the empowerment of women, highlighting how their rights had been brought to the forefront of national and international agendas through changes in States’ legislation to mainstream gender perspectives and the establishment of UN-Women last year.

Many also detailed efforts to ensure greater numbers of women held positions in politics and Government through quotas or affirmative action, thus allowing them to participate more in decision-making processes.  The representative of Bolivia said all political parties in his country were obliged to offer one male and one female candidates in order to undo old patterns of discrimination.

Despite those achievements, many representatives acknowledged gender equality remained largely rhetorical for far too many women.  Gender discrimination, particularly among rural women, women migrant workers and women with disabilities, was augmented by other forms of discrimination based on race, ethnicity and economic status, they said.

Education of women, particularly those who lived in rural areas, was singled out as a key to breaking the global cycle of poverty.  Mongolia’s representative said rural women were critical agents for poverty reduction, food security and environmental sustainability, and she welcomed the Commission on the Status of Women’s decision to consider, during its next session, the empowerment of rural women and their role in development.

A number of representatives also called for more systematic and coordinated efforts within the international community to protect disadvantaged women, particularly migrant workers who faced irregular immigration status and limited access to justice.  Efforts at national, regional and international levels must be intensified to implement laws, policies and strategies aimed at improving the situation of women migrant workers, Ethiopia’s representative said.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said his country had recently taken action in that regard, launching “Multi-Cultural Family Support Centres”, which provided married immigrants with access to basic information, education for social adjustment and vocational training.

In other business today, the Committee heard the introduction of five draft resolutions pertaining to social development.  They were introduced by the representatives of Argentina (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Moldova, Mongolia and the Philippines.

The Minister of State (Status of Women) of Canada, speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, also offered comments during the discussion on the advancement of women.

Also speaking during the discussion were the representatives of Yemen, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Cambodia, Sudan, Belarus, Peru, Ghana, Morocco, Pakistan, India, Namibia, Indonesia, Lesotho, Tajikistan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Oman, Uzbekistan, Djibouti, Argentina, Slovenia, Lebanon, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Mozambique, Malawi, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, Iran, Swaziland, Botswana and Tunisia.

A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine also spoke.

The representatives of Japan and the Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of their right of reply.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 12 October, to conclude its general discussion on the advancement of women, before beginning its consideration of the promotion and protection of the rights of children.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general discussion on the advancement of women and to hear the introduction of five draft resolutions on social development.  For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4008.

Introduction of draft resolutions

MARCELO CARLOS CESA(Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, introduced a draft resolution on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/66/L.11), which serves as a follow-up to those two meetings.  The text focused on poverty eradication, employment and social integration and was substantively similar to last year’s resolution.  It also took into account some of the reports of the Secretary-General on implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly.  It also addressed critical issues of concern particularly for developing countries, as well as all members of the international community.

CAROLINA POPOVICI( Moldova) then introduced the traditional draft resolution on policies and programmes involving youth (document A/C.3/66/L.7), which since its first introduction at the fifty-second session of the General Assembly had been adopted by consensus.  This year’s text touched on such social aspects as youth education, participation in relevant decision-making process and employment, among other topics.  She recognized youth delegates for their valuable inputs in the text’s drafting and expressed hope that the text would once again enjoy consensus.

ONON SODOV ( Mongolia) then introduced the draft resolution on cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/66/L.9).  The contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development had been widely recognized, she said.  The draft resolution welcomed the proclamation of 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, and invited Governments and international organizations, in partnership with cooperatives, to consider developing a plan of action to be submitted during the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly to ensure an effective follow-up to the activities of 2012.  It also drew the attention of Governments to the recommendations in the report of the Secretary-General to focus support on cooperatives as sustainable and successful business enterprises, and encouraged them to expand accessibility of research on operations and the contribution of cooperatives.  It was hoped that the draft resolution, as in the past, would receive Member States’ unanimous support and wide co-sponsorship.

ANA MARIE LAYUGAN HERNANDO (Philippines) next introduced a draft resolution on the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Realization of the Millennium Development Goals and Other Internationally Agreed Development Goals for Persons with Disabilities (document A/C.3/66/L.10), by which the Assembly would decide to convene such a meeting on the second day of the general debate of the sixty-seventh session.  As efforts continued towards the Millennium Development Goals, she said it was important that persons with disabilities were incorporated in all aspects of development efforts, so they could also contribute to and benefit from progress.  The international community had to use all possible channels to include persons with disabilities in all development initiatives.  On the draft resolution pertaining to the high-level Meeting, she looked forward to the valuable contributions and support of all Members States.

Finally, Mr. CESA ( Argentina) introduced a draft resolution on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.3/66/L.13), saying that challenges faced by older persons continued to require the immediate attention of the international community.  Thus, the current text, which was based on last year’s resolution of the same name, endorsed the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing and encouraged Governments and all sectors of society to pay great attention to eradicating poverty among the elderly and to enact ageing-specific policies.  It also recommended that the treaty body system and special procedures mandate holders to pay more attention to the situation of older persons in order to strengthen their human rights.

Among other things, the draft text proposed the designation of 15 June as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to contribute to greater recognition of that under-reported issue, he said.  He stressed that the open-ended working group established last year for the purpose of strengthening the human rights of older persons offered Member States a springboard for recognizing those rights.  Saying it was widely recognized that more and better work was needed, he encouraged the constructive participation of all delegations in negotiations on the text with a view to its consensual adoption.

Statements

TAHA ALAWADHI ( Yemen) recalled that his country had signed the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and enacted relevant national legislations.  The national Constitution stipulated that women’s rights and liberties were inalienable.  Yemen’s Ministry for Human Rights right oversaw the State’s efforts to promote and protect women’s rights.  In addition, she stressed that women’s advancement was a central part of Yemen’s development plans, as well as its education policies.  Arab women suffering under the Israeli occupation still suffered from violations of their rights.  Thus, it was critical for the international community to do more to end that occupation and to ensure that Arab women could live in peace.

DJUMAKADYR A. ATABEKOV ( Kyrgyzstan) associated his delegation with the congratulations to the three women who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  Kyrgyzstan agreed that women should be urged to participate at all levels of activity, and should be involved, above all, in decision-making levels.  Kyrgyzstan had a female Head of State, as well numerous women in Government, while women headed its Supreme Court and other national organizations.  “One could even say there is a faint discrimination against our men by our women,” he said.  But, Kyrgyzstan agreed that more effort needed to be made to increase the economic rights of women and girls in rural areas, to increase their part in development strategies as they worked towards the Millennium Development Goals.

His Government realized that the level of employment of women acted as a barometer of the level of development and progress in a region, he said.  Empowering women to solve global issues would help ensure sustained development.  Twenty years ago, Kyrgyzstan faced many difficulties and the reforms aimed at creating a market economy had, in fact, led to inequity, leading many people to leave the country.  The bulk of those departing had been women, who were fearful of gender-based violence and had been subjected to abuses.  Kyrgyzstan stood ready to encourage the rights of all migrant workers, particularly women, and he urged all States to accede to the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families without further delay.  Lastly, he said, Kyrgyzstan supported to the work of United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and urged it to visit his country.

MONIA ALSALEH (Syria), aligning with the Group of 77 and China and the Arab Group, highlighted the national and regional characteristics of the women’s agenda that were reflected in the international agenda on women’s empowerment and gender equality.  State efforts to advance women’s empowerment were part of an overall reform strategy.  In Syria, women had access to higher levels of the political, military and economic arenas.  Syrian women had obtained the right to vote early in the last century.  Today, women in Syria enjoyed equality with men, as guaranteed in the country’s Constitution.  Among other things, a strategy for reproductive health had been enacted, while a project to provide more economic autonomy for women was being implemented by the Social Ministry, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Efforts were also being made to reduce the poverty of rural families.

Stressing that Syria hoped to remove all impediments to women’s advancement in all areas around the world, she said the Government had been working in the Syrian occupied territories in the Golan, where it was working to put an end to the suffering of civilian Syrian inhabitants, including Syrian women.  She renewed the call for the Secretary-General to include in his reports references to that terrible situation, as well as the challenges faced by Syrian women in the occupied Syrian Golan.  That request had been made on numerous occasions, yet those women continued to suffer, as victims of serious crimes who were forced to live far from their families.  Syria urged a common overall approach to tackling the obstacles facing women living under the yoke of foreign occupation.

NAY MENG ENG ( Cambodia) said that because issues of gender were intricately linked with poverty, development was the key element for improving the lives of women and their families.  A fundamental restructuring of society and its institutions would then enable women to become fully empowered “as equal partners with men”.  The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Actions adopted 16 years ago remained the policy framework toward that realization.  Further, the elimination of violence and discrimination against women were essential strategies in supporting women’s participation in socio-economic activities toward development.

On a national level, he noted that in his country women were viewed as “the backbone of the economy and society”, with careful attention paid to increasing their participation on all levels of governmental agencies.  Coordinating with the United Nations system, his Government’s five-year plan of development, the Rectangular Strategy, was “in full swing” towards promoting gender equality and improving women’s status throughout all aspects of society.  He stressed that violence and discrimination of women and children did not just impact local or national society, but the global society, as well.  In that regard, Cambodia had embedded the reduction of violence on women as a major indicator in its national development plan.  Concluding, he called for the international community to honour their commitments on official development assistance (ODA), market access, technical and financial support, and capacity-building in order to enable and encourage women to participate fully in socio-economic development.

DAFFA-ALLA ELHAG ALI OSMAN (Sudan), aligning his statement with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and Arab Group, said a number of policies had been put in place in his country, including laws guaranteeing equal pay and an equal retirement age.  Women now made up 25 per cent of the Members of Parliament, while the candidate’s list from the recent presidential election contained many women’s names.  Sudan had made considerable progress, adopting a pioneering position in the region on promoting women’s participation in public life.  Women made up 75 per cent of civil service positions, and were involved in 87 per cent of all economic activity, he said.  Sudan had enacted a detailed five-year action plan to promote women in such areas as health, education, the environment, economic development, decision-making processes and consolidation of peace.

In the region of Darfur, the Government had financed a number of initiatives on employment, health care, peace building and rights.  There had been a national plan to combat violence against women since 2005, while the criminal code of 1991 introduced a number of articles to protect women, including crimes against humanity and war crimes.  In that regard, Sudan firmly condemned the uprisings in the Darfur region, which had led to violence against women, including rape of young women and girls.  That had been done by people involved in the rebellions there, he said.  Unilateral sanctions on Sudan were also having an impact on women and violating their rights, he said.

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, said the situation and advancement of Palestinian women was intricately linked to the political, economic and social development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  The continued Israeli military occupation and the intensification of its oppressive policies and practices against the Palestinian people had had severe implication on the entire population, and particularly Palestinian women, who bore a special and enduring burden from 44 years of occupation.  In the last year, the situation of Palestinian women had only worsened, owing to the illegal seizure of Palestinian land and home demolitions, which rendered thousands of Palestinian women and their families homeless.  The continued construction of its unlawful apartheid wall, as well as the increased levels of unchecked settler violence, also had all had severe ramifications on Palestinian women and their families.

She went to say that the deterioration of economic and social conditions was having grave consequences on the advancement and well-being of Palestinian women.  At the same time, violence against Palestinian women had risen to alarming levels, due to the continuation of the military occupation and of armed conflict.  National legalisation sought to lessen those impacts.  Most recently, the Palestinian cabinet endorsed a nine-year national strategy plan to combat violence against women that took a cross-sector approach and recognized that violence against women was a development issues affecting the political, social and economic systems of Palestinian society.  Highlighting the submission of the application of the State of Palestine for admission to membership in the United Nations on 23 September, she said Palestinian women perceived that historical moment as a step forward in achieving equality and empowerment.  Thus, it was time for the international community — and mainly the United Nations — to shoulder its responsibility in firmly supporting the Palestinian people in that noble and way overdue objective.

IRINA VELICHKO ( Belarus) said gender equality was one of the main goals of social justice and her Government welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts to move the issue of women’s advancement higher on the international agenda.  Such higher placement opened up opportunities for women to achieve gender equality, which was still rather weakly reflected in some resolutions emanating from the United Nations system.  Welcoming the establishment of UN-Women, she stressed it should include efforts to combat trafficking in women among its priority areas of work.

Highlighting the leadership roles and relatively broad participation of women in the public and private sectors in Belarus, she said the majority of the heads of social organizations were women.  Belarus was also one of the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) with the lowest levels of maternal mortality.  As part as its pro-women initiatives, the State was seeking to strengthen family traditions and to promote harmony within the family.  It had submitted its most recent report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and was working to ensure the equal roles of women and men in the family.  To that end, it was providing equal education between girls and boys.  Gender research was also needed and it was hoped that the work of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), which was absorbed into UN-Women, would continue its important work.

SHIN DONG-IK (Republic of Korea) said that, despite considerable achievements in bringing women’s rights to the forefront of the international agenda, for far too many women gender equality remained largely rhetorical.  Normative frameworks that ensured equality for women needed to be translated into daily reality in the lives of all women.  Gender discrimination, particularly among rural women, women migrant workers and women with disabilities, intersected with other forms of discrimination based on non-national status, race, ethnicity and economic status.  Efforts within the international community to protect disadvantaged women should be more systemic and coordinated.

Turning to actions taken by the Republic of Korea in that regard, he said his Government gave special attention to the rights of migrant workers and recently launched the “Multi-Cultural Family Support Centres”, which provided married immigrants with access to basic information, education for social adjustment and vocational training.  The Republic of Korea, he added, was deeply concerned with increasing sexual violence against women in armed conflicts, particularly to systemic rape and sexual slavery, including the “comfort women”, who were forced into sexual slavery by the military during the Second World War.  Those practices constituted war crimes, and under defined circumstances, crimes against humanity.  The United Nations should end these crimes by protecting women and girls in conflict situations, providing remedies and reparations for victims and ending impunity, by bringing the offender to justice.  Truth-telling and raising public awareness about those issues was also of utmost importance.

NUR JAZLAN MOHAMED ( Malaysia), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, while also speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said women had actively contributed to his country’s development since its independence.  Significant progress in the last decades had been possible due to the greater participation of women.  Their educational attainment was at an all time high, while their participation in the labour force had increased and legislation granting them equal opportunities and respecting their rights had been adopted.  Malaysia was also very aware of its obligations as a signatory to the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention and its pledges to the implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action.  Changes in its legal and institutional frameworks had been made to protect and improve the rights of women in all areas.

Malaysia also hosted the inaugural First Lady Summit in October 2010, providing a platform to advocate initiatives to better the younger generation, he said.  In the continued effort to pursue the cause of women and children, Malaysia was prepared to host the next summit in 2012.  “As Malaysia evolves from a subsistence agricultural economy to a knowledge-based economy, women will continue to be a primary force in influencing the development of future generations of Malaysians, as well as an important economic resource,” he said.  The country would focus on social inclusion, integrating women in all sectors of development in accordance with their capabilities and needs, to ensure a peaceful and prosperous nation.

CARMEN ARUAS ( Peru), aligning with the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, said that States parties must fully comply with their obligations under the Anti-Discrimination Convention.  As part of its national efforts, Peru was working to increase its national expenditures to help women and alleviate poverty.  The Ministry of Social Development would make more resources available to eliminating violence against women, trafficking in girls and improving the situation of rural, migrant and indigenous women, among others.  It was also working to improve reproductive health services and to eliminate barriers to greater equality between men and women in the labour market.  A national plan that sought to reduce violence against women and girls had been adopted and social programmes provided assistance to rural women to improve nutrition, education and health, including in terms of vaccination rates and pre-natal care.  The State was working to narrow the pay gap for equal work between men and women and to further efforts aimed balancing work and home life.  A programme for boys and girls provided day-care to allow their mothers to work.

Peru’s youth delegate, ANDREA ROMAN, underlined Peru’s policy of social inclusion and its intention to invest more in education, in order to help its citizens break the cycle of poverty and social exclusion.  Despite those efforts, however, gender inequality in education prevailed in rural areas owing to persistent gender stereotypes.  Such gender-based concepts also impacted the levels of violence against women in Peru.  Calling for greater political participation by women and girls, she said that women — particularly young women — must be seen as agents of change.

KEN KANDA ( Ghana) said that in his country, agriculture accounted for 42 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 55 to 60 per cent of food crop farmers were women.  His Government had, therefore, undertaken a wide range of measures to address the complex challenges confronted by rural women, including extension of credit facilities, improved technological assistance, enhancing skills in management and finance, and, through night schools, enhancing rural women’s literacy.  Public investment in transportation, water and sanitation and renewable energy was fundamental to reducing the time women spend on daily unpaid chores.  A holistic approach was, therefore, necessary to ensure the integration of gender-equality into national policies.

He said that States, civil society and international organizations must work together to identify new trends in rural labour markets, including through collection of sex-disaggregated data.  There was also a need to put in place specials measures to realize the full and equal participation of women in decision-making processes.  That low participation was currently the weakest link in the fight against poverty.  It was crucial to move beyond socio-political considerations to ensure women’s full participation in all fields of governance.  In order to increase the number of women in politics, Ghana was considering the introduction of quotas as a starting point to address the existing gap.

ABDELMOUNAIM EL-FAROUQ ( Morocco) said the advancement of women was at the heart of recent reforms undertaken in his country to create a democratic society that respected human rights.  Morocco’s new Constitution, adopted on 1 July 2011, constituted a significant step in the evolution of the status of Moroccan women.  That fundamental law affirmed the State’s commitment to eliminating discrimination against anyone based on sex, race, belief, culture, origin, or any other personal circumstances.  The Constitution stated that women enjoyed equality with men in all rights and also inscribed positive rights, or affirmative rights, for women, including their equal political participation.  Progress had been made in overhauling the national family code and mechanisms were now in place to ensure positive affirmation, and the integration of the gender dimension, in public policy.  The gender dimension was also reflected in the national budget.

Continuing, he said Morocco had notified the United Nations of its intention to withdraw its reservation to paragraph 2 of article 9 and article 16 of the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention.  A Government agenda for 2011-2015 sought to combat inequality based on a participatory approach that also took account of the Millennium Development Goals.  In addition, the legislative elections to be held in November would reserve a quota of 60 seats in the lower house for women.  Of those, 30 seats were reserved for women under the age of 40.  Morocco commended the adoption by the International Labour Organization (ILO) of the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.  The State had subsequently launched a process to develop legislation regulating domestic workers and banning work by girls under the age of 15.

ASIM IFTIKHAR AHMAD ( Pakistan) said his country was a member of the Executive Board of UN-Women and had worked constructively to drafting its Strategic Plan towards achieving women empowerment and advancement at all levels.  Pakistan’s Constitution guaranteed equal rights for all without any discrimination on the basis of cast, colour, sex or race.  Successive Governments had taken concrete steps to eliminate discrimination against women from public and private sectors.  Eminent women proudly represent Pakistan in various fields.  A large number of women were member of the national and provincial legislatures.  Pakistan’s Plan of Action was based on the Beijing Platform for Action and the observations made by the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee on the last country report.

Giving numerous examples of how his Government was addressing women’s empowerment and gender equality, he said the 15 year review of the Beijing Platform had drawn attention to persistent gaps in the Platform’s implementation that negatively affected progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  With only four years left until 2015, sustained international cooperation and global partnerships were of vital importance.  The international community must honour its commitment to ODA.  It must commit to debt relief and the opening of markets to give opportunities, particularly to women entrepreneurs.  The women who were forced to suffer the consequences of armed conflict and situations of foreign occupation should also not be forgotten.

RATNA DE (India), welcoming the establishment of UN-Women, said that her country had emphasized putting women on equal footing with men in all areas, not only by adopting appropriate legislative and policy frameworks, but also by raising social awareness of gender issues to fight deep-rooted social prejudices and stereotypes.  Describing, in that light, provisions of the Constitution — which provided for affirmative action — and the national women’s empowerment policy, she stated that political empowerment was a priority and 50 per cent of positions in local bodies were now reserved for women, with more than a million elected women in those bodies.  The Parliament was now considering a bill that would reserve 33 per cent of seats in that body and State legislatures for women, while the positions of President, Speaker of the lower house and other high national positions were already filled by women.

She said that the importance of women as agents of sustained socio-economic growth, in addition, was recognized in national planning as a cross-cutting theme.  In addition, providing access to education for women through innovative incentive schemes was an ongoing effort, while universal access to health care for rural women was the goal of several initiatives, such as one that trained health volunteers to link villages with health centres.  Legislation targeting domestic violence, indecent display of women, and trafficking in women and girls had been strengthened, with the latter problem addressed in a multi-dimensional, victim-centric way.  She assured the Committee that India was fully committed to the implementation of the Beijing Platform, and noted that the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had said “You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.”  For India, the goal of gender equality and women’s empowerment has been in the past and remains — “one of our foremost priorities”.

WILFRIED I. EMVULA (Namibia), aligning with statements of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Group and Group of 77 and China, said his country had made concerted efforts with regional and international partners to enact legal reforms that promoted gender equality and the advancement of women.  The policies and programmes addressed gender inequalities and redressed issues of economic and social injustice brought about by discriminatory cultural practices and historical imbalances.  The National Gender Plan of Action and its Monitoring and Evaluation Toolkit outlined indicators and targets that helped monitor policy implementation.  Namibia had also launched small-and medium-sized enterprise programmes that helped train and mentor women, to improve their living standards.  And, out of serious concern for escalating cases of gender-based violence, which undermined the dignity of women and affected their ability to contribute to development, Namibia had established women and child protection units around the country.

One of the remarkable achievements in Namibia is the high female school-enrolment rate, he said.  Statistics showed more females than males were completing school.  Despite commendable progress, gender disparities persisted in all sectors.  To address it, its Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, with support from UNDP, had embarked on a gender-responsive budgeting exercise in the agriculture, water and forestry, education, health and social services sectors.  “The overall goal is to ensure that Government resources are used to meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable women and girls.  This would help to translate Governments’ commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment into budgetary commitments,” he said.

HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia), aligning with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, said rising inequality and disparity was impacting women more than ever.  Yet, history showed that women could play a broader role in promoting peace and security, maintaining economic recovery efforts and ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth.  Thus, the further promotion and encouragement of women’s advancement would broaden opportunities and strengthen the resilience of any nation.  Women’s critical role and participation in the economy had become an important dimension in Indonesia’s development agenda and concrete steps were being taken to facilitate women’s access to capital and the market, including the majority of women workers in the micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises.  Women entrepreneurs were also being provided training, workshops and other economic resources.  Additional education and training programmes were aimed at changing mindsets and addressing women’s stigmatization, while gender-sensitive policies sought to safeguard women workers’ reproductive rights and promote equal rights and responsibilities between men and women workers.

He further stressed that the massive labour migration under way today must be addressed.  Specifically, efforts must be made to ensure that globalization’s benefits were shared fairly by migrant workers.  As a country of origin, Indonesia had taken institutional, administrative and legal steps to protect and empower its migrant workers, including women migrant workers.  Yet, countries of destination must continue to calibrate their commitment to implementing international rights instruments to protect migrant workers.  At the same time, development policies must deliver opportunities for women to participate in democratic governance.  Having had a woman president and with 18.2 per cent of the seats in its national legislature currently occupied by women, Indonesia had proved that democracy and women’s rights could thrive in a Muslim society.  Finally, the Indonesian Government urged UN-Women to carry on mainstreaming the gender perspectives in all social, economic and environmental fora.

PALESA LIPHOTO (Lesotho), noting that the empowerment and equality of women were “among the top priorities” of her Government, heralded the major achievements made on a national level towards eliminating violence against women, providing them with quality education, and increasing their participation in decision making, among others.  As well, national legislation promoting gender parity and eliminating gender discrimination had been enacted, including the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act 2006.  Turning to the issue of women living in rural areas, through campaigns aimed at raising awareness about economic and social well-being, her Government had, in partnership with civil society organizations, provided technical and financial assistance towards rural women who were organizing themselves in agricultural projects and working as rural health-care providers.

However, the HIV and AIDS pandemic remained one of her country’s main development challenges, she said, with women and girls being the most vulnerable.  In that regard, her Government continued to implement international, regional, sub regional and national instruments that addressed the epidemic.  On a national level, the HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan 2011-2016 was based on the principles of gender equality and advancement of women’s rights.  Concluding, she reported that Lesotho had submitted their report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), stating that their report showed the “clear testimony” of her Government’s commitment to the advancement of women and to the international human rights instruments to which they were a party.

KHUSRAV NOZIRI (Tajikistan), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, affirmed that it was necessary to keep working to implement international agreements on gender equality, despite progress already made.  In his country, gender equality was an important area of State policy, with guarantees of equal opportunity in public service, the social and economic sphere and matters involved with elections.  There was a programme specifically targeted at the education of girls, for the purpose of increasing the representation of women leaders in Government agencies.  A draft law countering domestic violence was currently under consideration; the marriage age had been raised from 17 to 18 years of age; and participation of women in all areas of education, training, science and technology was a priority.

Of course, there were still many problems to address, he said.  Solutions were being sought to the problems of disproportionate female poverty, the high rates of maternal and infant mortality, the increased rate of divorce, continued early marriages, as well as the serious problems of migrant women.  Resources, awareness campaigns and practical measures for the further advancement of women were also needed.  In order to overcome the remaining economic, political, cultural and other barriers to gender equality, the support of the international community was needed, first and foremost in the area of education.  He reiterated the commitment of his country to the full implementation of international standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

CLAUDINAH RAMOSEPELE (South Africa), aligning with statements by the Group of 77 and China, the Africa Group and the SADC, said gender equality was a fundamental human rights and a prerequisite for sustainable development.  “Without women’s empowerment and gender equality, societies will not be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and their full development potential,” she said.  Women were significant change agents in societies, especially those emerging from conflict.  They had demonstrated greater resolve for reconciliation and national cohesion during peacebuilding processes, but their needs continued to be overlooked in peace agreements, at donor conferences and in post-conflict legal reform — a situation that needed to be rectified.

Women also needed an active role in discussions on climate change, as they were the most affected, she said.  Further, they were the care-givers, who ensured the daily welfare of children, grandchildren and the aged and, to assist them, the United Nations system ought to enhance programmes for the advancement of rural women, women living with disabilities and indigenous women.  Since 1994, the South African Government had endeavoured to build an inclusive and socially cohesive, democratic society.  Yet, women still faced major challenges of underdevelopment and were subjected to various forms of discrimination and abuse, and her Government continued with legislative reforms and programmes to address their needs.

CHITSAKA CHIPAZIWA ( Zimbabwe) said his Government had adopted a national gender policy that provided an institutional framework for gender mainstreaming.  Zimbabwe’s combined report would be considered by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2012 and the Government was ready to learn from that process and to further ensure that its women were at the same level as their male counterparts in all sectors of society.  But, despite its efforts, inequalities continued, including in the persistence of gender stereotypes, violence against women, women’s under-representation in decision-making processes and the unequal distribution of unpaid work between women and men.  A massive scaling up of policies aiming at positive change was needed.  At the same time, women’s economic empowerment remained critical.

Highlighting the particular vulnerabilities of women migrant workers, he called for greater protections, underlining how much they contributed to the development of their countries of origin and destination.  Zimbabwe was also working to enhance the situation of women with disabilities and had put various frameworks in place toward that goal.  It was cooperating with all countries and other stakeholders in combating trafficking in women and girls, which was a contemporary form of slavery.  Other initiatives sought to curb violence against women and reduce maternal and child mortality, which remained high.  He appealed for the international community’s cooperation in combating maternal mortality and morbidity, including in addressing obstetric fistulas.  Zimbabwe urged UN-Women to prioritize strengthening its capacities in the collection, analysis and use of data disaggregated by sex, age and geography.

MUHAMMED HASSAN ALMOSSAWY ( Iraq) said the circumstances of the last decade had impacted Iraqi women particularly hard.  War and terrorism had decimated the population, creating many orphans and widows, and adding to the burden that women had to shoulder.  The Government sought to ensure the participation of women in the country’s political, scientific, and social life and placed particular emphasis on gender equality.  Among the different obstacles it faced were traditional social customs and traditions.  Yet, Iraqi women had shown courage and the capacity to face all challenges, assume leadership roles and participate in the development of the Government and social life, including by helping steer the country in the direction of democracy and freedom.

He noted that the Iraqi Government had acceded to the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention.  It was also implementing the Beijing Platform for Action and was working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  The new Iraqi State had established criteria to be used in promoting women’s rights, topped by legal and constitutional guarantees to Iraqi women, which were unique in the region.  The Constitution not only ensured women’s rights, but included provisions that 25 per cent of the country’s parliamentarians must be women.  Iraqi women enjoyed the right to run as a political candidate and to participate in non-governmental organizations.  Affirmative action policies further promoted women’s political participation, while other positive measures had been enacted to promote women’s health.  Women were present at the every level of Government and competed freely with men, who had completely prevailed in the public and private sectors before 2003.

KIFAYA KHAMIS AL-RAISI ( Oman) stressed the many achievements made by Omani women, noting that legislation emanating from Sharia helped give women their full share of rights.  Among other things, that allowed them to make big strides in securing parliamentary and political positions.  Indeed, women had attained positions of power at all levels of the Government.  The Government had named 17 October as the National Day of Women, and workshops and exhibitions honoured those playing a leading role in women’s empowerment.

He further stressed that Article 17 of Oman’s Constitution stipulated that all citizens were equal before the law, without discrimination for gender.  The Government submitted its initial report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2009.  In 2000, women garnered 30 per cent of the seats in the national legislature.  Finally, he stressed that Oman’s policies promoting women’s advancement were based on the fact that protections for women’s rights were protections of the State.

RAFAEL ARCHONDO ( Bolivia), aligning with statements of the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, said his country’s governmental cabinet was half women.  In all elected Bolivian posts, political parties were obliged to offer one male and one female candidate — that’s how the country had assumed responsibility for equality.  Bolivia had worked consistently to integrate the gender perspective into its development plans, particularly in terms of political involvement.  It also sought to undo old patterns of discrimination, guaranteeing titles of land to women, while encouraging the removal of the patriarchy from education and human rights learning.

While more and more girls and women in Bolivia were going to schools and universities, laws also ensured safe child-bearing along with a monitored payment allowance, he said.  Work at home needed to be recognized and shown to be important to society, shared between men and women.  Bolivia’s new Constitution said the country had to recognize work at home as a public wealth and had to be quantified in national accounts, so now Bolivia had to determine how to quantify that unpaid labour.  As long as gender differences persisted, the human race would not be able to move away from underdevelopment.  The Bolivian Government would continue to work towards all its international commitments for gender equality.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), aligning with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, affirmed his country’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, following the presentation of its sixth and seventh combined periodic report.  Underscoring the dire situation facing women in rural areas, he said that, in many developing countries, women were being left to carry the full burden of agricultural production, but had no legal protections, or rights to property ownership.  Persistent gender disparities in access to, and control over, resources — including technology, agricultural extension services, and credit — excluded women from high-value markets.  Similarly, women in rural areas had limited access to basic health services, as well as prenatal care.  Thus, there was an urgent need to redouble efforts to improve the situation of rural women by expanding their access to local service, employment opportunities, land rights and technologies.  For that, international cooperation and financial support would be vital.

He further stressed that women migrant workers were more vulnerable to the problems facing women — including violence and economic abuse and exploitation — due to their irregular immigration status and limited access to justice.  Efforts at national, regional and international levels must be intensified to formulate and implement laws, policies and strategies aimed at improving the situation of women migrant workers.  On the domestic front, Ethiopia was working to register the name of both spouses on land ownership certificate, to guarantee women’s land rights.  Special encouragement was being given to women to engage in micro- and small-scale enterprises.  Such technologies as bio-gas, and an energy-saving stove were being introduced to reduce women’s household burdens.  Other initiatives sought to reduce maternal mortality and improve access to health services.

MURAD ASKAROV ( Uzbekistan) said that his Government’s policies sought to ensure legal and economic protection of mothers and children and to promote the advancement of women.  To that end, social and political reforms had been introduced throughout Uzbekistan’s 20 years of independence.  State rules stipulating that women must comprise 30 per cent of the candidates for political office had resulted in women holding 22 per cent of the seats in Parliament and 15 per cent of the seats in the Senate.  Over 300,000 women were also participating in political parties, while assistance was being provided to women entrepreneurs.  Other support was provided by non-governmental organizations, including funds for culture and art and a women’s collectivity fund.  Of the 7.5 million people in Uzbekistan’s education system, over half were women.  In addition, 20 per cent of the doctoral dissertations presented in recent years were from women.

The State was particularly interested in helping mothers and children, he said, noting recent initiatives had cut maternal mortality in half, and dropped child mortality by a three-fold rate.  The Government had launched a “healthy mother means a healthy child” programme.  Other initiatives aimed at increasing medical assistance in urban and rural areas and a new clinic system was being introduced.  As part of its efforts to encourage higher participation in sports, the Government had also launched “a healthy child leads to a good healthy future” programme.  Although Uzbekistan was considered to be a world leader in conditions for women and children, it intended to continue to improve the situation of women, as well as the health of mothers and children.  In that context, it welcomed the establishment of UN-Women.

RONA AMBROSE, Minister of State (Status of Women) of Canada, also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, welcomed the commitments to intensify efforts to address violence against women and girls, including those from indigenous communities.  “Indigenous women and girls are particularly vulnerable to poverty, marginalization and social exclusion, a situation that renders them even more susceptible to violence,” she said.  She was also concerned by the high levels of discrimination still experienced by women and girls around the world, she said.  The working group appointed by the Human Rights Council in March 2011 would be an important resource for all Member States, and she welcomed the independent experts on discrimination against women in law and in practice, looking forward to their contributions.

“While the United Nations has taken an important step toward ending persistent gender discrimination, equality has yet to be achieved,” she said.  Member States needed to take active measures, including involving men and boys, to improve the status of women and girls, particularly with respect to safety, economic well-being and their status in society.  An International Day of the Girl would help raise awareness of the daily struggles of young girls to improve their life, the life of their community, their village, their town and maybe a country.  She sought the support of all Member States for the initiative to declare an International Day of the Girl.

KADRA AHMED HASSAN ( Djibouti) said equality between men and women was guaranteed by her country’s Constitution and the Government was aware that no sustainable human development policy could produce results without promoting women’s empowerment.  Gender quality had, therefore, been at the centre of the State’s development policy for over a decade.  Since ratifying without reservation the Anti-Discrimination Convention in 1999, Djibouti had been pleased by its fruitful interactions with the Committee charged with monitoring that international instrument’s national implementation.  Since 1999, a State minister had been charged with addressing all types of discrimination.  Women had moved on from being voters to being office holders and now accounted for 14 per cent of Parliament.  Since 2000, Djibouti had seen a considerable increase in the number of women and girls in its education ranks.  There was practically no difference in attendance among boys and girls in primary attendance, although attendance lagged among rural girls, since they faced greater obstacles in attending school.  To that end, grants were being provided to encourage families to send their children to schools.

Calling violence against women “one of the world’s worst scourges”, she said its causes were often rooted in gender discrimination.  Thus, Government efforts were focused on awareness-raising initiatives.  The State also considered female genital mutilation to be one of the worst acts of violence committed against girls and women, and a series of laws had been enacted against the practice.  Her delegation looked forward to the forthcoming report by the Secretary-General on female genital mutilation to be presented at the next session of the Commission on the Status of Women.  Finally, she stressed that her Government was happy to have contributed to the vital efforts of UN-Women.

GUSTAVO RUTILO ( Argentina), aligning with the statement by the Rio Group, said his country was particularly active in promoting the role of women in public affairs, particularly in the area of politics.  For the past few decades, it had taken affirmative action to ensure women could be president and hold positions at high levels in the executive branch.

The increase in women in politics over the years had increased their access to decision-making positions, he said.  Thirty-one per cent of ministries were headed by women, while they had increased in other levels of the Government, as well.  The increase in women in parliament had been crucial to promoting women’s rights.  Their representation had resulted in crucial new laws in congress on sexual health, equitable trade union representation and trafficking in persons.  Argentina would continue to work towards equality between men and women, with strict respect for human rights.

SANJA ŠTIGLIC ( Slovenia) said that the foundation for the advancement of women was in the Convention on the elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted 30 years ago, and its implementation “should not be set aside”.  She also urged that implementation continue of the Beijing Declaration, the Cairo Programme and the Millennium Development Goals, among others, to continue the process of achieving gender equality.  She also noted that last year’s achievements were being implemented this year, with the commencement of UN-Women adopting its first Strategic Plan for 2011-2013, and with the convening of the Human Rights Council Working group’s first session in June.

Continuing, she pointed out that women of the countries of the “Arab Spring” had been at the forefront of demonstrations, protesting side by side with men.  She underscored that they should be given equal roles in decision-making processes about the future of their countries.  On a national level, the empowerment of women was a cross-cutting issue in Slovenia’s development cooperation.  Her country’s commitment to the participation of women in peace-related activities and the protection of women and girls during and after conflict was evident in the adoption of its National Action Plan on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008).  She concluded her remarks with congratulations to the three women recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize for their contribution to the rights and role of women and, thus, to the advancement of peace and security.

ONON SODOV ( Mongolia) reaffirmed her country’s commitment toward the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, emphasizing that gender equality and women’s empowerment were at the centre of Mongolia’s development agenda.  Mongolia was working to achieve Millennium Development Goal targets concerning the assurance of gender equality in wage employment and the reduction of maternal mortality.  Despite the fact that Mongolian women attained a higher level of education than the country’s men, Mongolia’s promotion of women’s participation in decision-making had been slow.  To remove obstacles in that area, Mongolia’s Parliament passed the Gender Equality Law earlier this year, which required that up to 40 per cent of civil service positions be occupied by women.  The law also prohibited gender discrimination in hiring, promotions, wages, access to education and scholarships.  This fall, the Mongolian Parliament would debate a legal provision on quotas for women parliamentary candidates.  As a result, she believed the coming elections next June would include more women in Parliament.

Turning to the matter of rural women, she said they were critical agents in poverty reduction, food security and environmental sustainability; their full participation was crucial to attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  In that regard, she welcomed the Commission on the Status of Women’s decision to consider, during its next session, the topic of the empowerment of rural women and their role in development.  She also supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation on integrating the perspective of rural and indigenous women into the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.  In closing, she mentioned that Mongolia would table a draft resolution on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas, and hoped that it would receive wide co-sponsorship.

BRIGITTE TAWK ( Lebanon), aligning with statements of the Group of 77 and China, as well as the Arab Group, commended the establishment of UN-Women.  Empowerment and equality of women was needed to benefit from the potential and talents of half of society — it was the best way to achieve development, help health and promote education.  But, as the recent World Bank report illustrated, there needed to be comprehensive policies that allowed women to engage in economic alliances, reconciliation efforts and the positive transformation of society.  The world had lately witnessed how Arab women could call for reform and consecrate democracy and justice, but the promotion of gender equality was an individual and collective responsibility of both men and women.

On a national level, Lebanon had taken a number of measures for the advancement of women, including integrating their concerns for reproductive health.  Lebanon’s Women’s Affairs Committee was now drafting a ten-year strategy with civil society for a comprehensive plan on the advancement of women.  The Lebanese Government had also established a Palestinian-Lebanese dialogue committee that would help cope with issues surrounding female Palestinian refugees.  In that respect, he said he would like to highlight the rights of women living under foreign occupation, and how they needed more support.

EDUARDO ULIBARRI ( Costa Rica) appealed to those seven States that had not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  For its part, Costa Rica had adopted a national policy for gender equality and equity through 2017.  It was also working to address issues on the care of children by setting up a national network for child care and development.  Great strides had been made regarding women’s political participation, he said, noting that roughly 40 per cent of the seats in Costa Rica’s Parliament were filled by women.  The country also elected its first woman president in 2010.  The Government was seriously reviewing the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women with a view to their implementation, he added.

Costa Rica agreed with the Secretary-General’s suggestion that an appeal be made to all United Nations entities to incorporate the gender perspective more fully, he continued, stressing that the role to be played by UN-Women would be critical in that regard.  Expressing serious concern about violence against women, which he said was too common at the family, State and international levels, he voiced supported for the integrated approach proposed by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.  In combating violence, the situation of women migrants and the practice of trafficking in women and girls must be a focus.  The feminization of poverty was also a critical element and work must continue to promote women’s economic empowerment.  In that regard, he noted that the pay gap remained quite wide in many countries and additional strategies were needed to address it.

FARIS AL-OTAIBI ( Saudi Arabia) said his country had taken a number of steps for the advancement of women — it wanted to ensure that women were included in development strategies, including access to the highest levels of education.  That way, women would have access to decision-making processes and participate in important areas, such as the economic, social and medical fields.  Saudi Arabia had an integrated social plan that encouraged public and private entities to hire women.  Other important decisions had been taken to promote gender equality in a number of areas; as of next year, women would participate in congress, parliaments and the electoral process.  Women were now in the diplomatic corps and involved in determining Saudi policies.

Saudi Arabia also had women participating along with men in its national dialogue and was taking steps to combat violence against women.  Saudi women had reached the highest national and international positions, and their place in society was now much more recognized.  Saudi Arabia had now become a member of the board of UN-Women, and was committed to working with that entity.

ANTONIO GUMENDE ( Mozambique) said gender equality and the advancement of women was not only essential for development and promotion of human rights, it was also necessary for the attainment of the other seven Millennium Development Goals.  His Government pursued deliberate strategies and policies that encouraged the participation of women in decision-making bodies in the public, private and social sectors at local and national levels.  Thirty per cent of members of the Parliament were women, and out of 31 members of the Cabinet, eight were women.  In any economic entity, women were assigned managerial responsibilities and they worked in harmony with their male counterpart.

Welcoming the decision of the Commission on the Status of Women to make empowerment of rural women its priority theme in 2012, he said his country also appreciated the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for skills training for women in agricultural extension work in countries of the southern African region.  He also welcomed the support provided by United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Government of Norway for an entrepreneurships programme within the secondary and tertiary education system that encouraged girls to work in enterprises not traditionally reserved for women.

JANET Z.KARIM ( Malawi) said that her country was part of the binding SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which encompassed commitments in all regional, global and continental instruments for achieving gender equality.  It ensured accountability by all SADC member States and provided a forum for sharing of best practices, peer support and review.  Malawi incorporated gender in all its development efforts through its Malawi Growth and Development Strategy.  The country had a National Gender Policy and National Gender Programme and was implementing a programme on increasing women’s participation in politics and decision-making.  That had resulted in an increase of women parliamentarians from 14 to 22 per cent.

She said her country had reviewed laws regarding inheritance, marriage, divorce and family relations.  It had also issued gender mainstreaming guidelines.  A large-scale agricultural input subsidy programme had transformed the lives of many rural women.  Addressing gender-based violence, Malawi had, among other things, enacted the 2006 Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.  It had also mainstreamed gender in such sectors as land policy, transport policy and reproductive health policy, as well as in HIV/AIDS policies.

TAI LI-LIAN ( Singapore) said that meritocracy was entrenched in her society and there were no obstacles to women’s participation in all sectors of society.  Because of its physical limitations, Singapore could not afford to have gender discrimination.  Some of the highlights in its fourth periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women included legislation to further protect women and girls from commercial sex exploitation.  In that report, her country had also announced a narrowing of the scope of its reservations to the Convention, following significant developments on the practice of Sharia law.  It had also announced measures to enhance protection of women migrant workers and to sustain the fight against trafficking in persons.

Describing the measures Singapore had undertaken to change the status of women, she mentioned the Compulsory Education Act, which had resulted in a 93.8 per cent literacy rate among women.  The female labour force participation rate had increased from below 30 per cent in 1970 to 56.5 per cent in 2010.  Thanks to its committed efforts, Singapore had been ranked tenth out of 138 countries on the Gender Inequality Index, which indicated Singapore’s women enjoyed the same education, economic and political opportunities as men.  There were many areas where improvement was possible, she said.  Women, therefore, enjoyed training opportunities to equip them with the relevant skill to remain, and progress, in the current workforce, especially in light of the demands of new technology.

KHADEIJA AL-SERAIDI( United Arab Emirates) said her Government was working to further women’s empowerment, including by adopting legislation, strategies and programmes aimed at implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  It signed the Anti-Discrimination Convention in 2004 and the Optional Protocol was signed last year.  National laws provided for maternity leave, among other health benefits aimed at mothers and women.  The Millennium Development Goals on maternal health and women’s equality had been achieved.  Women were well represented in all three arms of the Government.  Currently, they held 66 seats in parliament, as well as high-level positions in the diplomatic service.

She stressed that preventive measures had been taken to eliminate violence against women, as well as trafficking in humans, particularly women.  The Emirates had also signed the Optional Protocol to the Palermo Convention.  A law against human trafficking was adopted in 2006, while other laws stipulated the punishment of those found guilty of trafficking in persons.  Domestic workers were protected in terms of their working conditions.  A strategy to develop remote regions had also been adopted, to allow for the further development of human resources and to raise the living standards of rural areas.  Efforts were also being made to make women’s access to agricultural credits equal to that of men.  Finally, she noted that the United Arab Emirates had contributed $100 million to UN-Women.

MARIELA SÁNCHEZ DE CRUZ ( Dominican Republic) said the Ministry of Women had made an extraordinary effort to insert a gender perspective all levels of Government.  The Dominican Republic believed that development and democracy would prove unachievable, if women were unable to improve their position in terms of health, education, social and political participation, economic development and employment.  Ultimately, men and women must receive equal attention.  Among its macroeconomic policies and development strategies aimed at overcoming women’s poverty, the State had launched the “Banana Project” in three provinces to strengthen the capacity and entrepreneurship of women in the agricultural sector.  It had also launched a national strategic plan to prevent teen pregnancy, which prevented young women from exiting the cycle of poverty.

The Government was also promoting comprehensive measures to eliminate all forms and manifestations of violence against women, she said.  In particular, the Ministry of Women had launched a social mobilization campaign aimed at promoting a life for women free of violence.  Support was also being provided to survivors, with new units of comprehensive care for victims being opened nationwide.  At the same time, the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure were being reformed to better promote women’s rights.  An Interagency Committee for the Protection of Migrant Women had been set up, under the coordination of the Women’s Ministry, as a mechanism to group all Government agencies working on the issues of trafficking and smuggling.  As a member of the executive board of UN-Women, the Dominican Republic supported all aspects of its ambitious Strategic Plan 2011-2013.  It fully endorsed the decision to focus on a strategic, on-the-ground presence in least developed countries, middle-income countries and countries undergoing or emerging from conflict situations.

MICOLE ROMULUS ( Haiti) said that Haitian women were present in the economic area, although their contribution was not adequately acknowledged.  They were a “pillar in the rural world”, often raising their children alone while the men worked.  They were “at the heart” of economic activities.  They were also more likely to be illiterate.  In rural areas, where illiteracy rates overall were 48 per cent, 65 per cent of women were illiterate, a serious gap vis-à-vis men.

Continuing, she noted the priorities adopted to ensure gender equality by the Ministry mandated to advocate for the rights and well-being of women.  These provisions included:  implementing non-violence education in schools to promote peaceful practices; encouraging women to vote and to become candidates in elections; assuring legal procedures for victims of sexual violence and violence; the availability of, and the participation of, national police in protecting the rights of women.  Concluding, she said that women in Haiti were becoming aware of what they could do and were organizing and becoming part of the progress to democracy.

RODNEY CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago), supporting the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that gender equality and empowerment of women were a priority for his country, which remained committed to fully implementing the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as all other relevant human rights instruments to which it was a State party.  Its obligations under those instruments were fulfilled domestically through legislation targeting discrimination and violence against women, as well as legislation protecting the rights of women related to matrimony, legal aid, maternity, co-habitational relationships, occupational safety and health.  A Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development integrates gender issues into national policy in all areas.

As part of efforts to ensure that women contributed to national development, free education was available; women graduates of secondary school and college now exceeded men in number.  Women and girls also benefitted extensively from training, health programmes and initiatives for working mothers.  In international forums, Trinidad and Tobago had launched programmes advancing women’s leadership on a range of issues, and the Government endeavoured to increase women’s participation in all areas and levels of public life, as well as in the private sector, through gender awareness training and monitoring progress.  The mass media in the country play an important role in promoting respect between the sexes and fostering gender equality.  He called on all Member States to strive to remove all forms of discrimination that prevent women and girls from enjoying their inalienable human rights.

YANA BOIKO ( Ukraine) said the establishment of UN-Women demonstrated the significant credibility and great expectations of Member States toward empowering women and meeting their needs globally.  As a representative on UN-Women’s Executive Board, Ukraine worked with other Member States to reduce gender inequality in every sphere of life.  The Beijing Conference and the General Assembly’s twenty-third special session reinforced the implementation of a gender policy in Ukraine.  The country had completed all tasks included within the provisions of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and had an institutional mechanism on gender equality.  As gender equality was a main component of Ukraine’s social and economic reforms, a representative on protecting children’s rights, equality and non-discrimination had been appointed.

All United Nations bodies should be involved in empowering women, she said.  UNDP and others supported a project for equal opportunities and women’s rights in Ukraine. Noting the importance of the Secretary-General’s event “Every woman, every child”, which dealt with maternal and child health, she fully supported initiatives to end violence against women, and trafficking in women and girls in particular, including the establishment of a working group on discrimination against women.  There was an urgent need to strengthen women’s rights in rural areas, whose priorities were insufficiently addressed and who faced serious challenges in carrying out their multiple productive and reproductive roles.  The rights of women migrant workers should also be strengthened, as they faced unique challenges in the migration process.  In closing, she reaffirmed Ukraine’s commitment toward ensuring for women, their families and their children healthy and worthy conditions for their steady advancement.

ESHAGH AL-HABIB ( Iran) said UN-Women would only be efficient when national strategies were based on respecting the religious, national and cultural diversities of different nations.  It should not follow a ready-made model, but rather achieve consensus on preparing strategies, plans and programmes.  It also must develop new parameters for inclusion of equitable geographical distribution and technical expertise in its work and composition.  Noting that Iran had hosted the Third Ministerial Conference of Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on women’s role in development, he said rural women had a critical role in poverty reduction, food security and environmental sustainability.

Thus, the “Rio+20” Summit should help accelerate their empowerment, he said.  As for eliminating violence against women in all its forms, he underlined the importance of a holistic approach that considered the situation in the national, regional and international context, as well as the root cause of the violence.  In Iran, women’s issues had been mainstreamed across all sectors.  The Government was developing expertise in all ministries, as well as in national mechanisms for women’s empowerment, and had established gender-responsive budgeting to ensure that adequate resources were allocated.  Among other gains, he noted that women’s participation in senior-level decision-making had increased, with the appointment of four women as Cabinet members.

ZWELETHU MNISI ( Swaziland) said that, recognized as equal citizens in his country, women were committed to their human rights without undermining their role in the family.  Because of his country’s “rich cultural heritage and valuable principles”, women were held in high esteem and regarded as the basic pillar in their society.  Further, the Constitution guaranteed the rights and freedoms of women, providing them with the right to equal treatment and equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities.  Strides in policy, legislation and programmatic interventions had also been made in improving the lives of women, among others, the Deeds Registry Act, passed by Parliament this past July, which allowed women to register property in their own names even if married in community of property.

On a regional level, and in line with the African Union’s Declaration of 2010 to 2020 as the African Women’s Decade, his country had launched the Swaziland Women’s Decade Road Map which contained 10 themes, including economic empowerment, health, peace and security (including violence against women), and women in decision-making positions, to name a few.  Still, many challenges remained, with women bearing the brunt of the prevailing economic and financial crises, which was currently resulting in the worst levels of unemployment, poverty and hunger.  Further, the HIV and AIDS epidemic had also compounded the responsibilities of women, as they bore the “greater burden of care giving in the home”.  Concluding, he expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by development partners and reported that, in recognizing the role rural women played in development, a number of programmes were already in place to facilitate projects initiated by rural women, including saving and credit co-operatives designed to cater to their financial needs.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE ( Botswana) said since the 1995 Beijing Conference, his country had made significant progress in promoting gender equality by creating a policy environment that promoted it.  Guided by the Anti-Discrimination Convention, the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development, as well as its National Vision 2016, among other frameworks, Botswana had taken initiatives to review laws, policies and administrative procedures that had consequently impacted positively on the status of women.  Also, the country had demonstrated a strong political commitment to gender equality, as reflected by appointments of women to cabinet and senior positions in the public service, and the establishment of a department to coordinate the implementation of Government policy on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Botswana strongly condemned all forms of violence against women and girls, and had in that regard significantly strengthened law enforcement capacity, he said.  Ending violations of women’s human rights was, thus, a moral imperative and one that had to be fought collectively.  He said Botswana had made progress in addressing violence against women and the girl child, and the adoption of the Domestic Violence Act of 2008 was a reflection of the Government’s commitment and determination to eliminate such violence.  Progressive legislation and policy reforms would not, by themselves, fully address the problem of gender-based violence, however, and it was, therefore, important to expand the quality of support for effective prevention and support programmes on the ground.  In that regard, Botswana valued the continued support and collaboration the country had with the relevant United Nations agencies and development partners.

AMIRA DALI(Tunisia), noting that her country had adopted a range of legislation to ensure women’s parity with men, drew attention to the personal status code, which was enacted in 1956 and promoted women’s advancement and the protection of their rights.  That accord addressed many things, including the prohibition of polygamy and the grounds for divorce.  Today, Tunisian women contributed to politics and trade unions, and were involved in the process of writing a new State constitution.  Recognizing that the protection of women’s rights was a key both to the future and to economic process, the interim Government had taken a number of a measures to protects the gains that had been made in that regard.

She said the Ministry of Women, together with the interim Government, had established a group of specialists on violence against women.  Recently a decision was taken to launch campaigns on behalf of women.  Concerted efforts were now needed to bring about a political transition that ensured the will of the people and Tunisian women had proved their strengths in that regard, providing critical support in building a society for tomorrow.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply to earlier comments from the Republic of Korea, Japan’s representative said the situation of “war-time conflict women” was a grave affront to a large number of women, and his Government had extended its apologies to those who had suffered incredible pain and psychological wounds.  However, the issue of reparations had been legally settled, including through bilateral agreements.  Together with its people, the Japanese Government had jointly established the Asian Women’s Fund in 1995 to facilitate support for former comfort women, who by then had reached advanced ages.  The Government had extended maximum support, including a provision of atonement money.  Moreover, Japan had been facing up to its past with sincerity and consistency since the end of the Second World War, and had consistently dedicated itself to promoting peace and security and demonstrating its respect for human rights.

In response, the representative of the Republic of Korea expressed disagreement with the argument that all issues had been legally settled, specifically stressing that actions that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity had not been settled by bilateral agreements.  Therefore, the legal responsibility of the Japanese Government remained in effect.  He drew attention, in that regard, to the 1996 report of then-Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences Radhika Coomaraswamy, and the 1998 report of Special Rapporteur Gay J. McDougall on contemporary forms of slavery.

He said his Government had proposed the initiation of bilateral consultations to resolve the issue of comfort women in accordance with the agreement concerning the settlement of problems in regard to property and claims and economic cooperation between their governments.

Responding, Japan’s representative said he had explained his Government’s position and he would not repeat it here.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said that in addition to the two reports from the Special Rapporteurs, he wished to remind Member States of other reports of international treaty bodies, including the 2007 report of the Committee against Torture and the 2009 report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which re-confirmed that the issue of comfort women still remained unresolved.

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