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Empowering women is key to development

Empowering women is key to development, Fréchette tells UN Commission

Opening the 50th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, UN Deputy-Secretary General Louise Fréchette said today the international community is finally comprehending that empowering women and girls around the globe is the most effective tool for a country’s development.

Studies have repeatedly shown that by giving women equal education and work opportunities and access to a society’s decision-making processes, a country can boost its economic productivity, reduce infant and maternal mortality rates and improve the general population’s nutrition and health, Ms. Fréchette told representatives gathered during the first day of the two-week meeting at UN headquarters in New York.

More than a decade after the Fourth World Conference on Women was held in 1995 in Beijing, the Commission will focus on two themes that it believes are crucial to women’s progress around the world: their participation in development and their role in decision-making in all areas of society, from politics to business to media. More than 2,000 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were expected to attend the session.

“Ten years after the Beijing declaration, we still have far to go on actual representation of women at the highest levels of national and international leadership,” Ms. Fréchette said. “That includes the United Nations itself, the Charter of which proclaims the equal rights of men and women.”

The UN Charter was signed in San Francisco in 1945 and the Commission was created the next year to promote the advancement of women around the world.

Ms. Fréchette praised the Commission for its role over the past six decades in shaping the progress of women at global and national levels through such activities as developing legal measures, shaping new policies and raising consciousness of how global trends from migration to HIV/AIDS affect women.

Rachel N. Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said the Outcome Document hammered out by global leaders at the 2005 World Summit as well as the UN’s ongoing reform offer fresh opportunities to speed up the implementation of global commitments to women.

“A fully implemented and engendered Summit Outcome will usher in a new era for the empowerment and advancement of women,” said Ms. Mayanja, noting that the Summit called for the increased representation of women in Government decision-making bodies.

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