Third Committee Speakers Say 2010 ‘Groundbreaking Year’ for Women’s Empowerment, with Creation of UN Women, While Underlining Many Challenges Ahead

12 October 2010

Third Committee Speakers Say 2010 ‘Groundbreaking Year’ for Women’s Empowerment, with Creation of UN Women, While Underlining Many Challenges Ahead

12 October 2010
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Third Committee

10th & 11th Meetings (AM & PM)

Third Committee Speakers Say 2010 ‘Groundbreaking Year’ for Women’s Empowerment,

with Creation of UN Women, While Underlining Many Challenges Ahead


Hears 46 Speakers in Second Day of Debate on Advancement of Women;

Stress Women’s Equality Fundamental Prerequisite for Development, Human Rights

Delegations in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) lined up today to welcome the establishment of UN Women and the appointment of Michelle Bachelet as its Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General, while underlining the many challenges that remain on the road to women’s empowerment, gender equality and the struggle against gender-based violence throughout the world.

Representatives of 44 countries and two observer missions took the floor, on the second day of the Committee’s discussion of the advancement of women.  Ms. Bachelet addressed the start of the debate on Monday.

Alluding to the creation of UN Women, the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Programme of Action and the tenth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (document S/RES/1325) on women, peace and security, the representative of Norway said 2010 should go down in history as a “groundbreaking year” for gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment worldwide.  She looked forward to the new entity taking the lead to ensure the full implementation of United Nations declarations and resolutions on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Her counterpart from the United States said that UN Women represented more than simple reform of the United Nations system; by bolstering the Organization’s gender-related work, tangible benefits to the lives of women, men and children would result.  As a former President, Ms. Bachelet had the leadership experience needed to guide UN Women during the critical initial phase of its operations, she said, adding that the bulk of UN Women’s work would be in the field — a situation that would call for an adequate number of staff to work with other United Nations agencies and government ministries to bring about real change.

Not a few representatives took the opportunity to explain what their respective countries have been doing at a national level for the advancement of women and to combat violence against women — often in the context of the Millennium Development Goals — as well as the challenges they faced.

“ Zimbabwe is still recording gender inequalities throughout the society,” its representative said, predicting however that many problems faced by women would “fall by the wayside” once they became economically independent.  The representative of Bolivia noted an increased role for women, notably indigenous women, in political decision-making in his country, but regretted that their role in mitigating the impact of the global economic crisis had not been fully recognized.  His counterpart from Malaysia cast a spotlight on the role of microcredit in economically empowering women in his country, while the representatives of Algeria and Morocco pointed to changes to family and nationality laws aimed at increasing the rights of women and children.

The representative of Jamaica told how his country has been striving, despite limited resources and the impact of the global financial crisis, to mobilize positive behavioural change while strengthening laws dealing with sexual offences.  His counterpart from Syria asked that UN Women address the situation of women living under occupation in the Golan, while the observer of Palestine appealed for urgent action from the international community to address the problems of Palestinian women, particularly in the Gaza Strip.

In other business today, the Committee heard the introduction of five draft resolutions pertaining to social development, with their sponsors expressing the hope that all the proposals would be adopted by consensus.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Viet Nam, Iran, Chile, Japan, Qatar, Libya, Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Zambia, Argentina, Iraq, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Monaco, Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, Burundi, Lebanon, Belarus, United Arab Emirates, Ghana, Haiti, Kuwait, Maldives, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Singapore, Ukraine and Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand).

The observer of the Holy See also spoke.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 October, to continue its discussion on the advancement of women.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its debate on the advancement of women.  For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3977.

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

The Committee began the meeting by hearing the introduction of several draft resolutions on social development.

WAHEED AL-SHAMI ( Yemen), on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, introduced a draft resolution entitled Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (draft resolution A/C.3/65/L.11).  He explained how it built upon last year’s General Assembly resolution on the same topic document GA/64/135 and incorporated important recommendations from the report of the Secretary-General.  It also makes reference to the recent High-level Plenary of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals, calls upon donors and international financial institutions to support developing countries and calls upon Governments to increase the participatory role of citizens and communities in planning and social integration.  Informal consultations were under way and it was hoped that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus.

ONON SODOV ( Mongolia), on behalf of Bangladesh, Guatemala and Nicaragua, then introduced a draft resolution on Cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/65/L.10).  Recalling that 2012 had been declared the International Year of Cooperatives, she said the contribution of cooperatives to social and economic development had been widely recognized, and their value was worth underlining as the world emerges from a global economic crisis.  The draft resolution proposes the convening of a plenary during the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly devoted to the launch of the International Year of Cooperatives, preceded by an interactive roundtable discussion.  It also invited Member States to consider the establishment of national mechanisms, such as committees, to mark the International Year of Cooperatives.  It was hoped that the draft resolution would be unanimously supported, with wide co-sponsorship.

ANA MARIE LAYUGAN HERNANDO ( Philippines) then introduced a draft resolution entitled Realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities (document A/C.3/65/L.12).  She recalled that 10 per cent of the world’s population have disabilities, with many of them subjected to discrimination.  They were largely invisible from the Goals.  The draft resolution recommends the calling of a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the issue.  Informal discussions on the draft resolution were underway, and while some concerns had been expressed about holding a high-level meeting, her delegation and that of the United Republic of Tanzania were willing to discuss them.  Chile came forward as a co-sponsor of the draft resolution.

Mr. AL-SHAMI ( Yemen), again on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, returned to the floor to introduce a draft resolution entitled Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.3/65/L.8).  For too long, the issue of ageing had not received the attention it deserves.  The draft resolution builds on previous resolutions on the same topic and incorporates recommendations from the Secretary-General’s reports.  At its crux, it calls for the establishment of a working group, open to all Member States, to consider the feasibility of an international convention on the rights of older persons.  Views differ on that matter, but the language of the draft resolution was encompassing, so as to allow an honest open discussion within the international community on improving the rights of older persons.  Informal discussions had been ongoing and it was hoped that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus, as it has been at previous sessions of the Third Committee.

Finally, Ms. SODOV ( Mongolia) introduced a draft resolution on the United Nations Literacy Decade:  education for all (document A/C.3/65/L.9), co-sponsored by Bangladesh and Chile.  With the Literacy Decade having two more years to run, and the 2015 deadline for achieving education for all under the Millennium Development Goals also approaching, the draft resolution sought to draw attention to the limited time left for achieving both targets.  It calls upon Member States and others to scale up quality literacy efforts and consider a post-2012 strategy.  It was hoped that the draft would be adopted unanimously.  Cameroon announced itself as a co-sponsor.

HOANG THI THANH NGA ( Viet Nam) said that the year 2010 was historic, since it marked the establishment of a new United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).  At the same time, while she was encouraged by progress during the reporting period, greater attention needed to be paid to various areas.  It was important to ensure smooth transitional arrangements for the new UN Women and the organic coordination between that entity and other development agencies, including in situations of conflict and post-conflict.  The United Nations and Member States should also take more concrete measures to promote the empowerment of women politically, institutionally, economically and financially, and achieve a legal and policy framework addressing all aspects of gender and engaging women in economic activities.  Further, while every effort must be made to better protect women from all forms of violence and discrimination, women should not be considered merely victims.  Rather, they should be seen as agents of change that could play an active role in peacebuilding and reconstruction.

Improving women’s participation had always been among Viet Nam’s top development priorities, she said, noting that women parliamentarians, which currently accounted for 25.76 per cent of the National Assembly membership, had formed their own Caucus, with the aim of better mainstreaming gender in the law-making and monitoring process.  To ensure women’s equal access to education, the Government had also designed specific objectives and indicators in the National Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women and the National Plan of Action on Education for All.  As a result, the gender gap had been reduced at all levels of education with female students now accounting for 46.8 per cent of enrolment, and Viet Nam now ranked 52nd among 93 countries in Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) and 68th among 130 countries in Gender Gap Index (GGI).   Viet Nam also expressed its belief that more needed to be done to improve gender equality in rural areas and workplaces, including ensuring equal job opportunities and equal pay, and it was ready to work closely with all partners for that purpose.

Ms. ABDULMALEKI ( Iran) said that the promotion of the status of Iranian women under national strategic policies and programmes for economic, social and cultural development had been significant in recent years.  “Benefiting from the religious teachings and observing the principles of moderation and strengthening the family, the Islamic Republic of Iran has provided a favourable situation without any legal impediments for women’s promotion,” shesaid.  Achievements related to women included:  a 14.53 per cent growth in women’s employment, 80.34 per cent literacy rate, 68 per cent enrolment of women in higher education, and an 80 per cent increase in female judges.  Legislative achievements also included establishing the right to have custody of children and to file for divorce, equality in obtaining “blood money” from insurance companies, providing movable inheritances, as well as the adoption in 2004 of a law against trafficking in women and girls.

Stating Iran’s belief that “gender justice” was the deciding factor in achieving sustainable development, she noted that there should be a just attitude towards women’s rights and freedom and that their biological and emotional differences should be taken into consideration.  “Equality fails to recognize the natural differences between men and women, and therefore disregards the cultural diversity of today’s world,” she said.  Because the family also held a special place in society, Iran’s development programmes also sought to strengthen that unit by supporting women’s empowerment within families.  She concluded by stating that the latest global economic crisis was the result of worldwide political injustice, and that justice for all and morality, instead of profit, could make a difference to the crippled global economy.

BELÉN SAPAG MUÑOZ DE LA PEÑA (Chile) reaffirmed her country’s strong commitment to women’s rights and to full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as Chile’s firm determination to promote implementation of the recommendations contained in the outcome document of the High-level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in September.  She was pleased to note that four years after the publication of the report of the High-level Panel on United Nations System-wide Coherence and after lengthy negotiations, an entity had been produced that would enable effective response to the aspirations of the women of the world.  She hoped that UN Women would be fully operational as soon as possible and that it would be given “sustainable financing”.

Although all forms of violence faced by women were of equal concern, she particularly stressed that the violence that women faced in conflict situations, including sexual violence, led her country to support efforts to achieve implementation of all the relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 1882 on children and armed conflict, which extended the scope of the Council’s action to include sexual violence against girls and boys.  At the national level, she outlined several initiatives her government was undertaking to implement its National Action Plan for implementation of resolution 1325.  Also, to strengthen women’s economic empowerment, the Emergency and Reconstruction Programme “Women, let us raise Chile had been launched, aimed to enhance the role of women in the country’s reconstruction following the earthquake that struck the Chile on 27 February.  A Presidential Advisory Commission on Women, Work and Motherhood had also been set up.  The latter was composed of male and female experts on the subjects of work, family, motherhood, economics and labour law together with trade union and management representatives.  Its task was to analyse and develop a comprehensive proposal designed to achieve three main goals:  to guarantee better child care; to separate the cost of motherhood from the cost of hiring women; and to improve the family and work balance for men and women in Chile.

CAROL FULP ( United States) said the creation of UN Women represented more than simple reform of the United Nations system.  Improving the situation of women and children contributed broadly to their communities’ development, security and prosperity.  By bolstering the United Nations gender-related work, tangible benefits to the lives of women, men and children would result.  Michelle Bachelet, as a former president and minister of defence, had the leadership experience needed to guide UN Women during the critical initial phase of its operations.  Over the past years, United States contributions to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), now folded into UN Women, had increased, to the 2010 total of $5.985 million.  She said the United States sought to engage forcefully and continuously on the Executive Board to enable her country to best help UN Women to carry out its mandate.

The United States envisioned that the organization would have a comprehensive mandate for empowerment, including mainstreaming gender throughout the United Nations system, and expected UN Women to inform policies and implement programmes to ensure women’s full and equal participation in political, economic and social life, including in conflict prevention and peacebuilding and to combat violence against women.  While a small number of core functions must be done at United Nations Headquarters, the bulk of UN Women’s work was in the field, and the organization would need an adequate number of staff to work with other United Nations agencies and government ministries to align field-level programmes with women’s strengths and needs and to effect real change.  Overhead costs and duplication must be reduced, she said.  UN Women’s creation did not relieve United Nations organizations of their responsibility to consider how their work impacts upon women.  Rather, UN Women should serve as a catalyst to ensure that all parts of the United Nations system mainstreamed gender considerations throughout their operations.

AZUSA SHINOHARA ( Japan) said his country would continue to actively help advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, based on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as other internationally agreed principles and instruments.  He expressed hope that UN Women would organically coordinate and effectively implement all the United Nations gender-related activities.  Japan would contribute to the new gender entity’s activities.  At last month’s Millennium Development Goals Summit, Japan’s Prime Minister announced the Kan Commitment of new health and education policies for which it had earmarked $5 billion from 2011 to 2016.  Japan’s EMBRACE programme -“Ensure Mothers and Babies Regular Access to Care” - aimed to save the lives of 680,000 mothers through continuous prenatal and post-natal healthcare.  He expressed hope that a comprehensive set of indicators to track implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security would be adopted and put to use soon.

Through its development aid to post-conflict countries, Japan aimed to strengthen women’s participation in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peace-building, he said.  Japan’s Government supported - through the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security - the Integrated Programme for Empowering Conflict Affected Communities to Rebuild their Lives in North and East Sri Lanka, which offered vocational training to widows who had lost their husbands in conflict, so that those women could have an active role in post-conflict society.  In December 2009, Japan announced an action plan to combat trafficking in persons.  This year, Japan’s Government would enact the Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality, which would focus, among other things, on bolstering women’s participation in policy decision-making processes and taking steps to settle employment-related concerns.

ALYA AHMED AL-THANI ( Qatar) said her Government was fully committed to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, in compliance with Sharia and the country’s values.  She firmly believed in the advancement of women as part of the architecture of the family, which was the fundamental nucleus of society.  Because of the political will of Qatar’s leadership, the country had achieved various accomplishments in the field of gender equality, including establishing a supreme council for family affairs to advance women’s capabilities.  On the legislative level, women’s ability to stand for, and vote in, elections had enhanced their role in decision-making, and the State had acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Regarding economic opportunities, Qatar had also improved job opportunities for women, giving them the chance to balance their family and professional responsibilities.  For example, a programme had been developed by the supreme council for family affairs and the supreme council for communications that provided women with a virtual link from home to their workplace.

To eliminate violence against women, Qatar had adopted practical policies to confront the phenomenon, including establishing an institution for the protection of women and children, as well as a hotline for the family and children, she said.   Qatar also worked to provide everyone with the chance to have a quality education by carrying out initiatives to improve public education and to expand the curriculum in higher education for both males and females.   Qatar viewed the continuation of conflict as a major impediment to putting an end to violence against women.  The Government also welcomed the establishment of UN Women and wished its new head, Michelle Bachelet, success in her duties.

SAMIRA ABUBAKAR ( Libya) welcomed the establishment of a United Nations entity that was concerned with gender equality and the empowerment of women.  Libya has taken a number of measures to improve the situation of its women.  With better prenatal health care, the maternal mortality rate has fallen; women’s life expectancy has increased, and there is a very high level of female enrolment in secondary and higher education.  It was Libya’s view that the rights of women were expressed in Islamic Sharia law and, therefore, its national legislation reflected those rights in all fields, including social security, pensions, ownership of property, economic activity, health care and paid maternity leave.  Under Law 24 of 2010, the children of Libyan women married to non-Libyans had a right to Libyan citizenship and, in social affairs, another law states that a married man in Libya cannot marry another woman without the written consent of his first wife.

Libya was concerned about the humanitarian situation of Palestinian women and the grave violation of human rights committed by the Israeli occupation authorities, he said.  It was also concerned by the deterioration of women’s affairs in other parts of Africa, and called upon the international community to put more attention on the situation of women in Africa and to help them overcome the crises they faced.  Libya also called for an end to violence against women in all its forms, especially in areas of armed conflict, and for an end to trafficking in persons.

HYUNGHWA CHO ( Republic of Korea) said that critical momentum had been reached this year in advancing women’s rights, as seen in the strengthening of the United Nations system through the establishment of UN Women.  Her country had supported UN Women and expected it to promote accountability and increase effectiveness in responding to women’s issues.  Her country had also supported the adoption of a resolution on discrimination against women in law and practice, which would contribute to removing legislation that discriminated in terms of gender.  Her Government pointed out, however, that efforts regarding maternal health were lagging behind targets and, that only a limited amount of resources had been invested in that area.  Her Government welcomed and would contribute resources to timely and proactive projects concerning women’s and children’s health.

Other lingering obstacles that continued to undermine women’s rights included the majority of children not attending school, women in low-paying occupations, the under-representation of women in political decision-making, and women falling below the poverty line, she said.  Her Government had taken steps to develop political and economic capacities to promote women’s empowerment by reflecting women’s needs in national policy-planning and in every stage of the national development plan.  As a result, the situation of women in her country had remarkably improved.  Challenges that remained, and needed to be addressed through international collaboration, related to women with disabilities, female refugees, and violence against women.  Her country pledged its commitment to gender quality around the world.

JI-YOON KIM, youth delegate from the Republic of Korea, then took the floor to discuss gender equality from the youth perspective, stating that education was extremely important, because it affected people throughout their whole lifetime.  Governments needed to promote gender equality and mainstream notions of gender roles through youth education.  Girls needed to be supported so that they could participate in decision-making.  Sexual education and protection against graphic images on the Internet were also needed, as the mass media had a great impact on promoting gender roles through television and movies.  Concluding that teenagers could play a leading role in the future of society, she said that they needed to understand concepts of gender equality and practice them in their daily life.

MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT ( Pakistan) said, despite steps taken at national, regional and international levels to promote gender equality and to mainstream gender perspectives into all policies and programmes, much remained to be done.  Pakistan had the unique distinction of electing Benazir Bhutto, the first woman prime minister in the Muslim world and had the first woman speaker of the National Assembly for South Asia.  Pakistan was pursuing the agenda for women’s empowerment under a four-pronged strategy, including reducing the feminization of poverty, promoting gender equality, ending violence against women and introducing necessary legislative structures to empower women.  For its part, Pakistan had, among other things, pursued a National Plan of Action to implement various commitments of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted laws to protect women’s rights and supported initiatives on economic empowerment and literacy.  The private sector and the media had also provided opportunities by raising awareness and addressing violations.

However, the recent fifteen-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action had shown that disparities remained between regions and within countries across all twelve critical issues of the action plan, he said.  The recent global economic crisis had also aggravated the feminization of poverty.  “We need to expedite efforts on the gender dimensions of all the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] to ensure their timely implementation,” he said.  The international community should, among other things, honour its official development assistance (ODA) commitments, as well as commit to debt relief and the opening of markets to give opportunities, particularly to women entrepreneurs.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) welcomed the creation of UN Women and the appointment of Michele Bachelet as its executive director.  The revolutionary Government in Nicaragua had taken a number of steps towards gender equality and the advancement of women.  Its model of citizen’s power encouraged the role of women in decision-making.  Twenty-three of the mayors elected in recent municipal elections in Nicaragua were women, and 19 members of Parliament were women; the governing party had contributed more than 90 per cent of the women in those positions.  School enrolment was very high, and illiteracy had been drastically reduced to 3.3 per cent, with the solidarity and support of Cuba.  Free health care had contributed to reducing maternal mortality, as well as infant mortality caused by acute respiratory diseases.  Several diseases had been eliminated.  To address violence against women, women’s commissariats and homes for victims of violence had been established.

On the international level, one could not say that women truly enjoyed all their human rights, she said.  Nicaragua welcomed the global plan against trafficking in persons; such trafficking was a scourge that could be dealt with in a more coordinated manner, with shared but differentiated cooperation.  Nicaragua was also concerned by countries that sought to criminalize migration, an approach that was liable to put women at further risk.

SOUMAYA BOUHAMIDI ( Morocco) said that much remained to be done to ensure equality between men and women and to extend greater autonomy to women and girls.  Morocco supported the creation of UN Women and welcomed the appointment of Ms. Bachelet as its head; the new entity would strengthen and consolidate the efforts of the United Nations vis-à-vis the advancement of women.  The role that women could play in consolidating peace and national reconstruction could not be overstated; at the same time, the protection of women and girls in conflict situations was imperative.  In terms of sustainable development, the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals had enabled countries to take stock of the progress made, and the road that remains to be followed, in ensuring the rightful place of women.

In Morocco, efforts to promote the role of women had been informed by the guidance of King Mohammed VI, who had put the protection of the rights of women at the heart of his vision of a democratic and modern society that embraced the values of the Islamic faith as well as universal values.  Judicial and institutional reforms had been carried out, and there had been in recent years a better participation of women in public affairs and decision-making at all levels.  A new family code has been put in place, and other pieces of legislation amended.  Combating violence against women had been a major concern; its elimination would require not only repressive measures, but also preventative steps involving education and building awareness.

CATHERINE MURPHY, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, stated that while numerous countries had made significant strides in promoting the dignity of women, challenges continued to confront women and more work needed to be done, especially given the many forms of violence to which women continued to be subjected.  Praising the establishment of UN Women, she highlighted the importance of legal frameworks to place just penalties on such violence and protect victims; support to victims such as legal counselling, psychological and spiritual care, and adequate shelter and employment; and promoting public awareness of societal attitudes that condone violence against women.  Noting that another aspect of the problem was the tragedy of human trafficking, she praised the Global Plan of Action Against Trafficking, but said that Member States needed to address the conditions that made women and children vulnerable, such as poverty and lack of employment and education opportunities.

Referring to efforts to end obstetric fistula, she stated that countries must continue to devote attention to the fundamental health of women, especially pregnant mothers and those with newborn children.  “Predicating aid to developing countries on the basis of acceptance of family planning methods not respectful of the human person does nothing to advance the health and wellbeing of women of today and of tomorrow,” she said, calling for a human-centred approach to caring for others and respect for the worth of each person from the beginning of conception to natural death.  The authentic advancement of women entailed respect for their inherent dignity, including their ethnic and religious identity, and the Holy See affirmed that women must be supported.

MARATEE NALITA ANDAMO ( Thailand) said that in 2005, Thailand had achieved the millennium target on eliminating gender disparity in primary education.  It was committed to meeting its “MDG-plus” targets aimed at doubling women’s political representation locally and nationally.  Thailand had made crucial amendments to existing laws and implemented new ones to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.  One law gave married or divorced women the right to choose their titles and surname.  Other laws formally expanded the grounds for divorce in the Civil Code, putting women on a legal par with men.  A draft gender equality bill was in the pipeline.  Thailand had helped to create the Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which promoted implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Women’s Anti-Discriminatory Convention encouraged ASEAN nations to review legislation for discriminatory elements against women. 

Last week, Thai Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol launched the “Standard Minimum Rules:  A New Horizon for Women Prisoners” exhibit, which aimed to highlight the Draft United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders, known as the Bangkok Rules, she said.   Thailand had amended its Criminal Code to criminalize wider categories of sexual violence, including marital rape.  It had been working hard to enforce the Domestic Violence Act, which included comprehensive steps to address sexual violence, criminalize perpetrators and compensate and rehabilitate victims, as well as the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act.  The Government had launched a “Gender Equality Starts at Home” campaign to raise public awareness about that issue.  A proposed Reproductive Health Act, if passed, would boost reproductive health care and create a fund for that purpose.

ASKAR ZHUMABAYEV ( Kazakhstan) said the creation of UN Women was “the crowing accomplishment” after four years of negotiations and debates regarding the establishment of a new single entity to work exclusively for gender equality and the advancement of women.  Through further implementation of action plans in the field, UN Women’s Executive Board would also provide timely assistance in overcoming modern challenges to achieving the third Millennium Development Goal:  promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women.  A separate Executive Board would facilitate the timely adoption of measures to more effectively address urgent challenges.  With that in mind, Kazakhstan had decided to seek membership on the Board from the Asian Group.

For its part, Kazakhstan had set a priority to achieve Millennium Goal Three, by studying and implementing the world’s best practices, and had adopted legal norms that provided equality for all citizens and protected their rights and freedoms.  The State Gender Equality Strategy was based on two gender-related national laws, and a national coordination model between State entities, civil society and international organizations to reach goals was formed through the National Commission for Women’s Affairs.  Kazakhstan’s internal policy and commitment were the reasons why the issue of promoting gender equality and political participation of women was included on the agenda of its chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  Since the Millennium Declaration in 2000, women involved in the business sector had risen to 52 per cent from 38 per cent and, in Parliament’s lower chamber, participation rose to 18 per cent from 13 per cent.  In 2010, Kazakhstan had adopted the National Programme for Accelerated Industrial Innovation Development, with women playing a special role in the process.

JULIET NAMULI BARABWA HAVELAND, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion of Norway, said 2010 should go down in history as a “groundbreaking year” for gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment worldwide.  She welcomed creation of UN Women and looked forward to the new entity taking the lead to ensure that all United Nations declarations and resolutions on gender equality and women’s empowerment were finally implemented.  The most important expectation of UN Women would be to improve the link between the normative framework, declarations, resolutions, laws and regulations, and their implementation on the ground at country level.  She looked forward to UN Women being an active advocate and provider of capacity-building across United Nations country teams, assisting Resident Coordinators and supporting national gender-equality machinery.  Norway was ready to give political and financial support towards that end, because so much remained to be done. 

It was necessary to address the root causes of injustice and inequality, such as cultural and patriarchal stereotypes, she said.  She called for transforming gender relations and actively engaging men and boys as allies and agents for change.  She encouraged UN Women to help strengthen the links among the Commission on the Status of Women, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Special Procedures and all relevant forums and mechanisms.  She welcomed the Human Rights Council’s recent decision to create a working group on discrimination against women in law and practice.  All nations must scrutinize laws to identify and eradicate any discriminatory effects against women, children and the disabled.  The experience of Norway and other countries had shown that a country did not have to be rich to have policies that promoted social justice and equal opportunities.  The most crucial factor for success was active political will to give women and girls the same rights, opportunities and capabilities as men and boys. 

It was time to mainstream gender equality and disability into all social development agendas, she said.  She strongly supported the Secretary-General’s global campaign to end violence against women.  Norway had taken steps to fight that menace at home and abroad.  Norway had taken special responsibility to reduce child mortality and improve women’s health, and it fully supported the Secretary-General’s global strategy to mobilize the necessary resources and develop effective policies towards that end.  Achieving full gender equality was at the top of Norway’s political agenda.  She urged other nations to follow suit, and to take national and international steps to implement all commitments in the Women’s Convention, the Beijing Platform for Action and the Council resolution on women, peace and security.

ZAHID RASTAM (Malaysia), outlining his country’s effort in realizing gender equality and empowerment of women, said that 97 per cent of girls in the country were enrolled in primary education and female enrolment in higher institutions was 61 per cent, while the female literacy rate in 2008 was 89.5 per cent.  On women and health, he said that female life expectancy was 76.4 years in 2008.  The maternal mortality rate was 0.3 per 1,000 live births.  To promote early detection of breast cancer, a subsidy for mammogram screening was introduced in 2007.  As with other countries, Malaysia saw a feminization of HIV/AIDS.  In addressing that epidemic, special focus had, therefore, been given to reducing HIV vulnerability among women, young people and children.  Under the National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS (2006-20009), women found to be HIV positive were provided with post-test counselling and free anti-retroviral treatment.  A special task force was established under the Department of Women’s Development to address the feminization of HIV.  As part of a synergized effort between the Government and non-governmental organizations, financial assistance was provided to non-governmental organizations that provided support services, such as drop-in, outreach and counselling, as well as those providing information to victims of HIV/AIDS, sex workers and transvestites.

Since 1987, Malaysia had also used a micro credit scheme, Amanah ikhtiar Malysia, to target women and poverty, he continued.  An impact study showed that borrowers enjoyed an average of 593 per cent increase in monthly income in 2005.  Four critical factors that contributed to the success of that scheme were the usage of a cost-effective eligibility test to ensure that loans were disbursed to the deserving beneficiaries; borrowing procedures that were very convenient to borrowers; rules and regulations that were easily understood by borrowers; and a peer pressure method that was applied on borrowers, effectively reducing the non-performance of borrowers.  Despite the country’s progress, gaps and challenges remained, he said.  Those included the impact of the economic crisis, the increasing feminization of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and continuing gender stereotypes and attitudes which created institutional and societal barriers to mainstreaming a gender perspective in the implementation of policies and programmes.

MONIA ALSALEH ( Syria) told how the empowerment and advancement of women had been a priority feature of the development programmes of her country.  National strategies had been established for the advancement of women, and efforts were underway to ensure greater representation for them in government, the legal sector and decision-making.  Programmers were in place to address reproductive health and the lot of rural women.  Training seminars had been organized, in cooperation with civil society, to raise awareness of international instruments that provided protection for women and children from violence.

It was extremely important to mention the terrible realities that Syrian women faced in occupied territories, the Golan in particular, she said.  The Secretary-General’s report did not mention the forms of violence they faced, despite letters from the Syrian delegation that provided details.  Syrian women suffered from detention, arrest, and separation from their families in the occupied Golan, and women who lived there could not cross the territory to reach their homes.  More effort was needed from the international community and stakeholders, including United Nations structures, to ensure that such problems were eradicated.  Syria welcomed the establishment of UN Women and hoped that mechanisms would be put into place to deal with the suffering of Syrian women living in occupied territory, especially the Golan.

JOSEPHINE OJIAMBO ( Kenya), welcoming the establishment of UN Women, pointed out that achieving gender equality and facilitating the enjoyment of women’s rights was key to unlocking their full potential to contribute to national development and, consequently, eradicate poverty.  Since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals, Kenya had made remarkable progress in the advancement of women by incorporating the gender perspective in development policies, as well as putting in place legal frameworks and institutional structures.

Violence against women was a violation of their rights, she said.  The Kenyan Constitution provided for the National Human Rights and Equality Commission to receive and investigate complaints of violation of human rights and secure appropriate redress.  In that regard, the government had developed a National Framework towards Response and Prevention of Gender-Based Violence. Also, the link between access to health facilities and infrastructural development could not be overemphasized, she noted, pointing out that in most countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, lack of access roads had hindered access to health facilities.  Concluding, she declared that trafficking in girls and women remained a big challenge in conflict and post-conflict situations in Africa. She was grateful that the General Assembly had heeded the call of African Heads of State and Government and promptly adopted the Global Plan of Action adopted in August this year. In line with that Plan of Action, Kenya was seeking to domesticate the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Trans-national Organized Crime, particularly its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, through the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Bill of 2010, currently being debated in Parliament.

PATRICIA CHISANGA-KONDOLO ( Zambia), aligning herself with the statements delivered on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), expressed hope that the various recent high-level meetings on women would further galvanize efforts to empower them.  She said that her country, in the belief that women’s advancement was critical to development, had integrated women in decision-making positions and made the promotion of gender equality a priority in all strategies to improve the standard of living.  Women were given preference in accessing funding and financing in Government and private-sector programmes; land reform had led to some 30 per cent of titled land allocated to women; and affirmative action was being taken to improve girls’ education.  She acknowledged, however, that much more needed to be done.

Condemning all violence against women, she noted Zambia’s ratification of international and regional instruments to fight the scourge, as well as the country’s development of specific legislation and a national action plan to address it.  In the fight against trafficking in persons, she supported recent United Nations and regional initiatives, adding that her country had enabled the prosecution of traffickers and the protection of victims through legislation.  Acknowledging that health issues, particularly HIV, remained major challenges, she looked forward to further international discussion on women’s health. She concluded by reiterating Zambia’s commitment to the goals of the Beijing documents, the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally-agreed goals related to women, pledging that the country would “continue to forge ahead in the realization of these goals.”

The representative of Argentina said that the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was a milestone for the evolution of women, but countries still struggled to promote the rights of females.  In Argentina, there were still challenges in achieving targets relating to women’s rights, although there had been a leap forward in the political participation of women since the passing of laws on the issue in 1991.  In addition to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, women were the heads of defence, social tourism, and the central bank.  In the Supreme Court, two women were justices and one was the vice chairman of the court.  In Parliament, women made up 39 per cent of the Chamber of Deputies and 36 per cent of the Senate.  The participation of females had given rise to legislation that enshrined women’s rights, including the trade union law and the law concerning violence against women.  The executive branch had also passed a decree regarding children in female headed households who were outside the labour market, resulting in the inclusion of more than 3 million children in that social programme.

Intent on breaking the cycle of poverty, Argentina provided retired persons with pensions, assisting 2 million beneficiaries, including women and housewives.  A draft law was also created that established equality between working people in private homes and put them on the same level as other workers.  Additionally, Argentina’s President supported the appeal of the Secretary-General with a national campaign for gender equality and against violence against women.  Regarding trafficking, the country recently enshrined a law against violence and a gender violence monitoring unit.  Argentina had also received the Special Rapporteur on trafficking, who had met with authorities and members of civil society.  Argentina was an active participant in debates concerning the implementation of Resolution 1325 about women, peace and security, and had initiated the incorporation of the issue in discussions with the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) and the Organization of American States (OAS).

Mr. HILMI ( Iraq) said that empowerment of women was an integral part of Iraq’s plan and that Iraq supported conventions and resolutions in favour of women’s rights, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Cairo Plan of Action, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Millennium Development Goals, and Security Council resolution 1325.  The new Iraq constitution was also based on equality of rights.  Notwithstanding recent challenges, Iraq had demonstrated its capability in fighting terrorism, so that families were protected while carrying out their responsibilities.  The Government had made efforts to protect and educate women, for example, by establishing under the guidance of the country’s prime minister, national centres dealing with violence against women.  Additionally, campaigns to raise awareness against female genital mutilation and honour crimes had been launched, to put an end to those phenomena, and legal provisions with strict penalties had been enacted.

Noting that women and children constituted the largest population in Iraq and that terrorism had adversely affected their rights, leaving many widows and orphans with increased burdens, he said that the Government had made improvements to the institutional infrastructure concerning women and families.  A ministry of women’s affairs, as well as a committee dealing with women and children in Parliament, had been established.  The citizenship law of 2006 strove to put an end to discrimination between men and women; 25 per cent of parliamentary seats went to women; and women were the ministers of human rights, the environment, and housing.  The Government had also adopted policies promoting women’s rights with regard to police services, providing care to battered women.  In Kurdistan, the legal protection of women had progressed, and the practice of having several wives and female genital mutilation had been ended.  He concluded by saying that Iraq was among the countries that had achieved steps towards gender quality and had ratified conventions giving equal rights to males and females, but that it still needed support from Member States.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said that 15 years after the Beijing conference, gender equality and the advancement of women were still at the heart of international concerns.  Poverty among women, maternal mortality, violence against women, sexist stereotypes and sexual violence were all roadblocks to peace, security, development and human rights.  The fuel, economic and food crises had exasperated inequality and discrimination against women, especially in rural areas.  For developing countries, international assistance was essential in order to provide stability and enhance the rights of women and children.

Since Algeria joined the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1996, its Government has been amending its laws so as to eliminate all discriminatory language. In 2008, the Constitution was revised to promote the rights of women and to facilitate their access to decision-making bodies, including elected assemblies.  The nationality code was amended to extend citizenship to all children born to Algerian mothers.  Several mechanisms were put into place, including a ministry responsible for families and women.  A national strategy had also been established to address violence against women, with an accent on prevention.  Some 37.5 per cent of judges in Algeria were women, and there were 97.87 girls per 100 boys in school as of 2008. The number of women in Parliament had grown from 13 in 2000 to 38 in the 2007 elections.  The creation of UN Women would no doubt stimulate the Organization’s ability to support Member States in striving to achieve the goals set out in the Beijing Declaration.

GRATA ENDAH WERDANINGTYAS ( Indonesia) called gender equality a fundamental prerequisite for development and human rights, but despite some progress, there were still recognizable inequalities between men and women which needed to be addressed through their root causes, which included poverty, discrimination, prejudice and conflict.  The United Nations should play an increasing role in that effort.  Indonesia welcomed the establishment of UN Women and hoped that it would address gender concerns equally in both developed and developing countries, taking into account the needs and capacities of each country.

Recognizing the synergy between development and the advancement of women, the Government of Indonesia had been implementing the Beijing Programme of Action and other international instruments as guidelines for promoting the rights and well-being of women.  Among other initiatives, progress was being accelerated on priority programmes, which include those related to gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The Draft Law on Gender Equality was being redrafted, and National Community Empowerment Programmes were being implemented at several levels to address women, poverty and the economy.  Human trafficking, including trafficking in women and girls, was one of the worst forms of human exploitation, and closer cooperation among countries was required to address it.  Legislation on domestic violence had increased public awareness of that problem, particularly among women, and minimum standards had been set to provide protection services for victims.

FEDERICO ALBERTO CUELLO CAMILO ( Dominican Republic) expressed his country’s pride in having a long tradition of struggling for gender equality and empowerment of women, having served as the Headquarters of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), which was now part of UN Women.  Stating that it would be relevant to continue conducting research and training from developing countries like the Dominican Republic, he expressed confidence that UN Women would result in work of greater impact.  Towards that work, the Dominican Republic aimed to serve as a member of the Executive Board of UN Women and to fully comply with its mandate.  Because the Government felt it was not possible to attain development and improve the welfare of society without improving the position of women, the Government had developed the necessary legal framework and public policies to ensure equal opportunities.  For example, macroeconomic policies financed both men’s and women’s entrepreneurship through lending and providing technical management assessments, and schools offered vocational technical training for both men and women.

In the area of sexual and reproductive health, progress had been made in preventing teen pregnancy, improving access to contraceptives, supporting the reproductive rights of women, and mainstreaming gender equality in the 2006-2015 Ten-Year Plan of the Ministry of Health and throughout the National Health System.  The Dominican Republic also promoted measures to eliminate violence against women, having developed Norms for the Care of Victims of Violence against Women and promoting coordination of service providers through local networks.  Regarding trafficking, the Inter-agency Committee for the Protection of Migrant Women coordinated all government agencies on this issue, and other commissions, departments, forums and counselling centres offered support to trafficked women.  Additionally, the new constitution of the Dominican Republic, enacted 26 January 2010, integrated the principle of equality and women’s rights.

CLOTILDE A. FERRY ( Monaco) said that investing in women contributed to sustainable growth, the elimination of poverty and long-term development, but there were still many challenges to obtaining these objectives.  She maintained that UN Women would enable the realization of commitments to gender equality and would be able to provide advice to Member States in the framework of standard setting or on the technical level.  Monaco supported more coherence in the fight against sexual violence, and supported global initiatives to improve health among women and girls.

Noting Monaco’s commitment to working with developing countries, she said that it had funded hospitals and training for health-care workers in order to prevent and treat diseases, such as malaria and AIDS.  Progress had also been made over the past two years regarding awareness-raising programmes to end obstetric fistula.  Additionally, access to education and microcredit for women had been increased, so that women would have a full role in society.  Because violence affected women throughout the world, knowing no borders, classes or religions, Monaco believed that specific measures were necessary to prevent it, and more severe sanctions were needed against criminal behaviour, including honour crimes.  Monaco also supported the Secretary-General’s report calling for providing support to women in post-conflict situations.

JAVIER LOAYZA ( Bolivia) said the leadership of Ms. Bachelet would be pivotal in UN Women’s efforts to achieve its targets.  The status of women in Bolivia had been difficult, especially in rural areas, but in the past five years, under its current government, important progress has been made towards more decent work for women and improving the status of indigenous women.  In times of economic crisis, it was the work of women that mitigated the negative impact, yet their efforts had largely gone unnoticed.  Such work should be acknowledged as shared responsibility and a substantive contribution by women to development.

Bolivia has been striving to eradicate violence against women in all its forms, while at the same time promoting the full exercise of their human rights, he said.  Equality between men and women was an essential goal, and in the new Constitution the rights of women were inalienable and indivisible.  In the Cabinet of President Evo Morales, women held half the ministries, and many of them were indigenous women.  Women’s ownership of natural resources and land has been acknowledged, and the mass media were giving more attention to women’s rights.  “A mental decolonization is taking place so that we can create a positive image of women,” he said, adding that proceeds from the nationalization of natural resources had been funding a mother-and-child bonus, aimed at addressing maternal mortality and child malnutrition and benefiting a total of 550,000 people.

PAUL BADJI (Senegal) said there had been significant progress regarding the Millennium Development Goal #3 regarding women’s development, but the world community had fallen short of the goals and expectations.  Women, the driving force of development, were still underrepresented in economic life and practically excluded from decision-making.  Despite women’s contribution to domestic life, including taking care of children and enabling future generations of workers, women were still marginalized in education and community forums.  Having reaffirmed at numerous international meetings that women were an important pillar in improving the well-being of humanity, the international community had achieved a “resounding victory” by establishing UN Women, in an effort to harmonize United Nations actions in the area of women.  Senegal joined international actors in the effort to eradicate all forms of violence, welcomed the Secretary-General’s global strategy, and welcomed the support and funds that the Group of 8 had agreed to provide towards the advancement of women.

Senegal, under the guidance of its President, had made great headway in promoting the advancement of women, he said.  Senegal’s Parliament had adopted a law on gender equality, providing for parity between men and women in all institutions and enabling women to accede to decision-making bodies.  Senegal had ratified conventions concerning the prevention of violence against women and the promotion of women’s and girls’ rights, as well as supported laws penalizing such violence.  The country had guaranteed access to land, education and jobs for women.  Since 2005, there was free medical coverage for women who gave birth.  National action centres for women also focused on reinforcing women’s capacities and skills.  The Government financed economic activities and poverty eradication programmes for women, and specific structures were developed on the national level to raise the education rate of girls.  Additionally, Senegal, on behalf of the African Group, had prepared a draft resolution supporting actions to eradicate obstetric fistula and hoped that it would enjoy the support of Member States, as it remained an absolute priority.

Aligning her country with the Group of 77 and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), CHERRY ANN MILLARD-WHITE ( Trinidad and Tobago) said the country’s election of its first female prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, showed women’s advancement and empowerment.  The country continued to meet its obligations to the provisions of the Beijing Declaration that mandated the elimination of gender-based violence.  The country worked to expand women’s and men’s understanding of their legal rights and responsibilities in that area and had used the mass media to promote gender equality, for example.  Radio and television programmes entitled “Gender on your agenda” were being streamed to specific target audiences in the national community.  That helped raise public awareness and encouraged positive images of both sexes throughout society while promoting non-violent behaviour in conflict situations.

In the employment area, about 50 programmes had been implemented at the regional and community levels to provide training for low-income and unemployed women, so they could earn livelihoods, she continued.  The improvement of women’s health and their access to health services was also being addressed.  Maternal health and support units, for example, were expected to be set up at every public health facility in a decentralized health system, to provide information on diseases impacting women.  Trinidad and Tobago welcomed the creation of UN Women and was confident that it would help improve the lives of women and girls around the world.  It also supported CARICOM’s contribution to the United Nation’s work with women.  She asked that Member States support the candidatures of Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the upcoming election for members of UN Women’s Executive Board.

Associating with the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and the Rio Group, CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said much remained to be done to ensure full gender equality.  Her country believed that gender equality, the empowerment of women, women’s full enjoyment of all human rights and poverty eradication were essential for sustainable economic and social development.  Given that, she highlighted some significant multilateral contributions, including the adoption of resolutions on the economic empowerment of women, maternal mortality and morbidity, and the elimination of discrimination against women.  Those new instruments would deepen States’ commitments to the advancement of women and reaffirm the impact of gender perspectives in achieving the Millennium Goals, she said.

Colombia had developed a social policy with a gender perspective, as well as a series of affirmative actions for women which was comprised of several key components.  Efforts were undertaken to improve conditions for women microentrepreneurs and to ensure women’s effective inclusion in the workforce.  Women’s economic empowerment was crucial to achieving the Millennium Goals, she said, noting that an economically empowered woman would contribute to creating a less vulnerable environment.  She went on to underscore her Government’s strategies to eradicate gender-based violence, as well as its significant legal developments in the areas of commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth, sexual violence, and comprehensive care of the child victims of such violence.  Finally, she stressed the importance of international cooperation in promoting the advancement of women. 

ZACHARIE GAHUTU ( Burundi) recalled his country’s commitment to struggling against violence against women, as manifested through ongoing judicial, legal, administrative and institutional reforms that enshrined the principles of equality and aimed to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.  The government had never ceased working towards the day when the Burundian woman would have the same rights as men in all aspects of society and control of her own destiny.  A national strategy was in place to eradicate gender-based violence, and a budgetary line had been established to address the issue.

More recently, the process of establishing a pilot centre to look after victims of gender-based violence had entered an active phase, she said.  Located in the centre of the country, it would serve as a model for similar facilities elsewhere in Burundi.  Following elections this year, there had been a significant increase in the number of women in political life, enabling women to debate topical issues and propose solutions.  That progress had been made did not mean that all challenges had been overcome, and the road still had to be cleared on the way to advancing the status of women and eliminating sexual violence

CHITSAKA CHIPAZIWA ( Zimbabwe) said that her country had placed the implementation of gender equality and empowerment of women policies at the centre of its development strategies.  That had been demonstrated by the national prioritization of Millennium Development Goal Three, as part of the three necessary to achieve all other goals.  To synchronize international instruments with national initiatives, Zimbabwe had adopted a National Gender Policy to provide a framework for gender mainstreaming.  “ Zimbabwe is still recording gender inequalities throughout the society,” she said, stating that women’s empowerment efforts needed massive scaling up, so as to realize more positive change.   Zimbabwe considered economic empowerment of critical importance, believing that many difficulties that women faced would “fall by the wayside” once women were economically independent.

Regarding trafficking in women and girls, she said Zimbabwe had strengthened national and subregional responses, and welcomed the adoption of the new United Nations Global Plan of Action Against Trafficking in Persons in July 2010.  Regarding improving maternal and reproductive health, she appealed for the international community’s cooperation in combating maternal mortality, including by obstetric fistula, saying, “We agree with those who have asserted that no woman should die or be disabled in the process of giving birth to life.”   Zimbabwe lauded the creation of UN Women, noting that it stood ready to work with the entity.  It also encouraged UN Women to prioritize strengthening capacities in the collection, analysis and use of data disaggregated by sex, age and geographical data.  That would contribute to better policy planning, which was urgently needed in her country.

RAYMOND WOLFE ( Jamaica) aligned with the statements made by Yemen on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, by Chile on behalf of the Rio Group, and by Guyana on behalf of CARICOM.  He welcomed the creation of UN Women and urged Member States to support the election of Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the UN body in the forthcoming Economic and Social Council elections for the Executive Board.

Despite limited resources and the impact of the global financial crisis, Jamaica had made progress in a number of areas to promote the advancement of women.  For example, the collection of data was disaggregated by sex.  Further, efforts had been made to eliminate gender stereotyping and negative cultural attitudes through public education campaigns, including a national transformation programme known as “Fresh Start Jamaica”, which served to mobilize positive behavioural change.  In addition, the Sexual Offences Act had been passed in 2009 to enhance provisions for the prosecution of sexual offences.  Awareness-raising sessions, including training, had been conducted for the media, judiciary, law enforcement officers, teachers, health-care and social workers, in that regard.  Concerning the HIV/AIDS epidemic, he noted that, despite the nation’s great strides, women and young girls remained particularly vulnerable.  The nation would continue “rigorous efforts” to address the issue.

Mr. HABIB ( Lebanon) drew attention to the rights of women who lived under foreign occupation, and the need to safeguard them and punish all those who violated those rights.  Governments and civil society were increasingly aware that women’s empowerment had a significant impact on the productivity of society and on economic development.  Thus, Lebanon was convinced that no society could fully achieve its economic and social potential as long as women and men did not enjoy those rights on an equal footing.  Lebanon also believed equality needed to be mainstreamed in all of the United Nations’ work, and that the creation of UN Women was an important step towards dealing with women’s issues in a coordinated and harmonized manner.

Despite progress, however, there were major challenges that still needed to be overcome, considering that violence against women happened frequently and constituted one of the most serious violations of human rights of the era. Statistics were shocking, showing that many girls did not have access to vaccination, education, or health care, due to gender-based discrimination, and that women between 15 and 44 suffered from mutilation and death due to acts of violence perpetrated by men.  That required the deployment of additional efforts to hold perpetrators accountable and provide victims with justice.  Lebanon supported the Secretary-General’s campaign to end violence against women by 2015.  On the national level, combating violence against women was a main aim and goal of Lebanon.  Lebanon had adopted a bill that penalized domestic violence in all its forms, created a special unit to combat these crimes and provided for the protection and social reintegration of victims.  It believed that education was the key tool in combating violence against women, as it turned women into “actors of change”.

ZOYA KOLONTAI ( Belarus) recalled how the General Assembly had often expressed concern about violence against women and girls.  Full-fledged implementation of the Global Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons would be a practical contribution to improving the condition of women, including the prevention of violence against women.  Belarus had put in place a network of social services which offered different forms of assistance to women who had been the victims of violence.  Awareness-raising and educational campaigns had also been established, aimed at preventing violence within the family and trafficking of women.

Safeguarding gender equality was important for economic growth, rooting out poverty and balanced development, she said.  To that end, Belarus had been bringing its laws up to international standards.  School textbooks had been reviewed to root out negative stereotypes, and the leadership qualities of women had been encouraged.  Belarus enjoyed a very high level of women’s participation in political decision-making, and it had many women scientists.  Belarus was a signatory to the Convention against All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its periodic report would be considered in November.  On the international level, despite significant progress, problems remained, including stereotyping and gender-motivated violence, which had had a negative impact on achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Belarus stood ready to play an active role on pursuing gender issues and it placed great hopes in UN Women.

NOORA ALSUWAIDI ( United Arab Emirates) said her Government had promulgated laws and acts to promote women.  Indeed, women were partners in development processes.  In recent years, special interest in women’s issues had been seen, especially for women in rural regions.  The Constitution guaranteed women’s equality in various spheres: work, social security, education, health care and access to equal salaries, among them.  In 2004, the Government started to create appropriate conditions through laws that provided for women’s rights, notably maternal leave.  A specialized mechanism — the High Council for Women and Children — had been created, and the United Arab Emirates was proud that it had achieved equality between men and women.  Citing examples, she said women had contributed to decision-making and participated in legislative and judicial bodies.  There were four women in the Council of Ministers and women represented 22 per cent of the National Federal Council.

Women also represented the country as ambassadors, she said, as well as in such bodies as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Trade Organization.  They were also lawyers and judges and held 60 per cent of civil servant roles, holding responsible jobs in education, the police and the armed forces.  Endorsing the Universal Declaration to Combat Violence against Women and the Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, she said the United Arab Emirates had taken measures to end violence against women.  Shelters had been set up to help victims of family violence, as well as sexual violence.  Her Government would continue to promote women’s advancement.

Mrs. BARGHOUTI, the observer for Palestine, reaffirming the country’s commitment to work on the advancement of women and welcoming the establishment of UN Women, said that Palestine had hoped to highlight progress in its report; however, it had been unable to do so, because the current situation facing women in Palestine remained critical, particularly in the Gaza Strip.  The situation required not only special attention, but urgent action by the international community.  To address the harsh reality facing Palestinian women and to understand their achievements, it was necessary to state that the myriad of constraints that women living under Israeli occupation faced could not be separated from the issues they faced as women.  In order to achieve genuine improvement, prevailing norms of peace, freedom, equality and democracy had to be in place, for which Palestinian women had been striving too long.

Due to continued Israeli occupation for more than four decades and policies against the whole population, there was a deterioration of the situation in Palestine, which had an impact on women in particular.  Women received the brunt of the crisis, especially in the Gaza Strip, as their rights to life, homes and property, food, housing, education, health, development, and freedom of movement had been breached by Israel in a violent and brutal manner.  For example, the launch of the attack by Israel on 22 December 2008 had killed more than 1,400 people, including women and children, and had injured more than 5,500 people.  At the same time, life in the West Bank remained intolerable, as land was seized for construction and illegal settlement was expanded.  Home demolition, obstruction of freedom of movement and terror continued to have vicious consequences on the advancement of women.  Palestinian women strove to live in an independent, free Palestine, in a secure life that enabled them to focus on issues related to their advancement and empowerment; however, they would not be able to achieve these goals alone and, thus, continued to call on the international community to compel Israel to end its occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people and their land.

LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN (Ghana), associating himself with the statements made on behalf of the African Group and the Group of 77, said the African Union had declared 2010-2020 the Decade of Women in Africa.  It was, therefore, fitting that UN Women had been established this past June to improve system-wide coherence on women’s issues.  He pointed out that the Beijing Platform for Action had recognized that social and cultural factors often made women more susceptible to diseases and infection.  Globally, the lack of gender equality in decision-making processes and conflict management remained a challenge.  Moreover, women still constituted the majority of the poor population and, in some countries, lacked access to and control over resources.

Ghanaian women, constituting about 80 per cent of the informal productive sector, still encountered difficulties in accessing credit facilities, he said.  In that regard, his Government had set up programmes to provide women with microcredit and small loans.  He highlighted several other efforts undertaken, including the criminalization of sexual offences and traditional practices, such as ritual servitude, cruel widowhood rites and female genital mutilation.  Despite his Government’s diligent efforts, the majority of Ghana’s women had yet to achieve gender parity and economic independence.  To that end, he called for enhanced collaboration with development partners, donors and stakeholders, as well as technical and financial support to support Government programmes.  Further, he underscored the need to examine the issue of alternative funding.

NICOLE ROMULUS ( Haiti), noting that the percentage of women in public administration stood at 7.28 per cent, said measures had been adopted to promote women’s participation.  In urban and rural areas, women carried the disproportionate burden of childcare. About 45 per cent of families were headed by women and lived in poverty, owing to a lack of opportunity for women in labour markets.  Meetings by United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman and other women’s defenders underscored the priority that must be assigned to women’s empowerment.  Women must be integrated into job creation programmes and afforded opportunities for sustainable sustenance.  Despite progress, including reform of Haiti’s social security system to better support women, women’s contribution to the economic sector had not been acknowledged. A s farmers, for example, they had a great impact on rural areas.

Noting that Haiti’s food security had been compromised by the earthquake, she urged increasing projects in regions not touched by the earthquake, with a view to introducing a “new dynamic” into production, as Haiti’s trade had been characterized by a heavy dependence on imports.  Addressing sexual violence, especially against women and girls living in tents after the earthquake, she said measures taken by the police and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) had helped reduce the incidence, and a campaign against sexual violence had been launched in the affected areas.  Moreover, 100 officers had been deployed to Port-au-Prince to investigate such cases and the results would allow for the creation of a database, which would help coordinate prevention efforts.  In the legal area, reforms for women’s equality had been included in the penal code. Rape and attempted rape, as well as sexual harassment, could now be the object of a complaint, in line with the penal code.  A campaign to eradicate sex stereotypes had also been undertaken.

HASAN ABULHASAN ( Kuwait) welcomed the establishment of UN Women and expressed his country’s commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  Noting that Kuwait’s Constitution guaranteed the equality of men and women, he stated that the Government worked to secure women’s rights, particularly to education.  Kuwaiti women also achieved successes that gave them a pioneering role in the Gulf, such as working in the judicial system, the diplomatic core and armed forces.  Women had been elected to the Parliament, now representing 8 per cent, with no quota for women.  Women were also allowed to serve as police officers, and headed one of Kuwait’s centres of investigation.

In the private sector, women played a role in major corporations, participating in the economic life of the Gulf, he said.  Kuwait also supported women in cultural and political fields, out of a belief that women were a partner in society.  He reiterated the importance of United Nations resolution 1325 on women and peace and security, stating that Kuwait would like to reassert its contribution to United Nations organs and that it aspired to boost cooperation.

ABDUL GHAFOOR MOHAMED ( Maldives) said that the empowerment of women must be pursued through the promotion of gender equality at the economic, political and social levels, all of which were essential to eradicating poverty and underdevelopment around the world.  His country was able to endure recent economic shocks because it doubled female participation in the labour force over the past 20 years and would continue to develop policies to support the constitutional right to safe and fair work conditions, equal pay for equal work and equal opportunity for promotion.  However, discrimination, diminished market access, increased vulnerability to crime, and loss of family-oriented social benefits still hindered the full participation of women in the marketplace. 

In order to rectify the situation, he said, the Maldives looked forward to the support of UN Women and other stakeholders, in its efforts to increase women’s active engagement in leadership and decision-making.  Condemning all violence against women, he regretted its prevalence in his country, but noted recent legal initiatives that allowed for the monitoring of cases and spoke of plans for further action.  Also regretting the dearth of data on the status and needs of women, he invited partners to help produce an in-depth baseline study from a qualitative, rather than quantitative, viewpoint.  He affirmed that his country was firmly committed to its responsibility to ensure that women and girls were safe and were encouraged to take their rightful places in classrooms, boardrooms and Government offices

NIKOLAY RAKOVSKIY ( Russian Federation), stressing that 2010 had become “the year of women in the United Nations”, recalled that the recent Millennium Development Goal summit had devoted attention to the improvement of maternal health and women’s empowerment, while a United Nations meeting in March had been devoted to the Fourth World Conference on Women.  Indeed, the focus had been on women’s equality and States’ decisiveness in providing for gender equality.  Welcoming the creation of UN Women, which would provide for due reporting to the Secretariat and improve the effectiveness of work on women’s issues, he expressed hope that it would create the parameters for its work.  Elections should be held for one, two and three years.  Which country and how long it would hold a seat on the UN Women’s Board should be determined by “a random system”.

Supporting theCommission on the Status of Women, he said its skill in terms of strategy and operational activities would improve the effectiveness of its executive body.  The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, among other instruments, provided a roadmap for improving women’s status, while interim reports were also important for national reporting.  The Russian Federation’s reports had been analysed during the sixty-fourth session, and the dialogue by the Convention’s monitoring body was being analysed by Russian Federation ministries, with a view to implementing its suggestions.  The Russian Federation’s focus had been on overcoming the global crisis and providing social protection for citizens.  No social programme had been eliminated.  Gender mainstreaming was part of its social policies and Russian women played an important role in the economy.  Efforts had been made to improve women’s conditions, but the United Nations must continue to focus on gender issues in all its aspects.

ASEIL AL-SHEHAIL ( Saudi Arabia) said the establishment of UN Women was clear evidence of the accomplishments reached in the field of equality and women’s empowerment.  The women’s issue was a matter of deep concern for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the development of women was an integral part of a general strategic plan that conformed to magnanimous Sharia.  That was especially the case in education, health, social services and participation in social development.  Several resolutions have been adopted concerning gender equality, including equality on the career ladder and retirement.  Saudi women also participated in various fields with full support from the government.

In a positive development for women’s education, employment and health, the Saudi Council of Ministers has adopted a resolution that represented a quantum leap in the pattern of women’s participation in society, requiring all government agencies that provided services related to women to establish women’s sections, as required, within one year.  In addition, Saudi women had been participating – sometimes in leadership roles - in the diplomatic service, the Shura council (with eight women appointees), chambers of commerce and industry, business, health care, non-governmental organizations dealing with domestic violence and defending the rights of women and children, and the media.

ESTHER O. ADEYEMI, Director of Women’s Affairs, Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development of ( Nigeria), aligned herself with statements made on behalf of the African Group and the Group of 77 and China.  She said over the years, particularly in the past one, Nigeria made substantial progress advancing women, putting them “at the heart” of its development agenda.  Sustained dialogue and advocacy between the Government, civil society and development partners had brought issues of women’s empowerment and gender equality to prominence, shaping decision processes at all levels of governance.  Nigeria was committed to full implementation of various international instruments for the advancement of women, and was focused on implementation of its National Gender Policy, she said.

Over the past decade, Nigeria’s ratio of girls in primary school and women in national Parliament increased, while the maternal and infant mortality rates had dropped, she said.  In the last year Nigeria trained and deployed 2,819 midwives to 652 primary care facilities around the country.  The Government also approved establishment of Gender Units in all of its ministries, departments and agencies this year to better encourage gender development.  Nigeria, however, still faced challenges implementing conventions and instruments for the advancement of women, including the domestication of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination.  She went on to call for improved technical support from international development partners to help accelerate the women’s agenda.

ANG ZHONGREN ( Singapore) said the World Community stood “on the cusp of a historic moment” in global efforts to advance women’s rights.  A new entity — UN Women — had been created and under the leadership of Ms. Bachelet, he was confident it would be a strong advocate for gender equality.  His country’s governing philosophy was based on the principle of meritocracy, which minimized any form of discrimination against any class of people.  As a small nation with no natural resources, Singapore recognized the importance of gender equality and viewed meritocracy and gender equality as compatible principles.  “The true advancement of women is best achieved by having Government and society provide the right environment with equal opportunities,” he said.  In that regard, Singapore had centred its efforts in advancing the status of women on a comprehensive legislative base.  Legislation on issues such as women’s equality and rights in and out of marriage, violence against women and women’s employment rights were complemented by his country’s education policy.

That policy, he said, provided for equal opportunity for both sexes in schools and tertiary intuitions.  The literacy rate of women had reached a historic high of 94.7 per cent last year, and there had been better representation of women in traditionally male-dominated courses such as engineering and hard sciences.  Singapore’s policies had reaped positive results overall, as the income gap between men and women had begun to narrow and women were becoming less financially dependent on their husbands.  Further, more women had been granted key decision-making positions, with the first female full Minister having been appointed last May.  Despite progress made, he recognized that more needed to be done to achieve full gender equality and affirmed that Singapore would continue to work towards it under a “meritocratic” framework. 

OLHA KAVUN (Ukraine), aligning with the European Union, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the full implementation of goals set out in the global gender agenda.  Women’s advancement was essential in the pursuit of democracy and development.   Ukraine paid particular attention to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, as well as the outcome documents of the Beijing Conference and the Assembly’s twenty-third special session.  The country had made substantial progress in that regard.  After the 2005 adoption of a law to ensure equal rights and opportunities for men and women, Ukraine incorporated its provisions into all national action plans adopted every five years.  That had led to the creation of an institutional mechanism on gender equality.  In 2010, in the Office of Ombudsmen, the representative on protecting children’s rights, equality and non-discrimination started her work.  Society’s perception of the role of men and women also had changed, with 40 per cent of young families maintaining equal distribution of gender roles.

Indeed, the population was raising awareness about women’s rights, she said, a trend reflected in Ukraine’s combined sixth and seventh reports on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.  Also, Ukraine had taken note of recommendations of the fifty-fourth session on the Commission on the Status of Women, among others, and she emphasized that men and women had full socioeconomic, civil and political rights.  In the last 10 years, Ukraine had adopted sectoral and inter-sectoral programmes aimed at implementing the Millennium Development Goals, and had submitted a national report on such issues, which comprised gender equality targets and indicators, among them those reflecting gender representation in high-level executive authorities, Parliament and local self-governing bodies.  Challenges ahead included a need for more gender statistics, an insufficient awareness of the legal aspects of ensuring equal rights and opportunities, and gender stereotypes.

HELEN HORSINGTON (Australia) speaking on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, reaffirmed the unwavering commitment of those countries to advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women.  She supported the commitments made at the Commission on the Status of Women in March to intensify efforts to fully implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and welcomed the comprehensive Ministerial Declaration adopted at ECOSOC on implementing internationally agreed goals regarding gender equality. “Gains have been made towards gender equality over the last decade, but there is no region in the world where women fully enjoy equal rights,” she said.

She applauded the establishment of UN Women as a comprehensive mechanism for promoting women’s rights, as well as of the Human Rights Council’s new Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice as a necessary follow-up mechanism. Political will on the issue of maternal mortality shown during the last 12 months must now be translated into action, and recent mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were a reminder of the work still ahead to ensure that Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was fully implemented.  Australia committed itself to the development of a national action plan on women, peace and security, and Canada had recently launched its own plan. Commending the renewed focus by the United Nations and Member States this year on achieving gender equality, she said, “We know the importance of equality. We have the frameworks in place to guide us. We have the establishment of UN Women. We must now ensure we see real progress towards gender equality.”

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