Wed, Mar 14, 2018 - Page 7 News List

UN chief ‘proud feminist,’ urges men to join him

LIFTING RURAL WOMEN:The focus of the women’s panel this year is the one-third of employed women who work in agriculture, half of whom are illiterate


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called himself “a proud feminist” and said all men should support women’s rights and gender equality.

His statement was loudly applauded by hundreds of women and a sprinkling of men at the opening of the annual two-week meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, a UN body that Guterres called “vital to end the stereotypes and discrimination that limit women’s and girls’ opportunities.”

Changing the unequal power dynamic is “the greatest human rights challenge of our time” and a goal that is “in everyone’s interests,” he said.

“Discrimination against women damages communities, organizations, companies, economies and societies,” he said. “That is why all men should support women’s rights and gender equality, and that is why I consider myself a proud feminist.”

As examples of the male-dominated world and culture that need changing, he said: “Women are pioneering scientists and mathematicians, but they occupy less than 30 percent of research and development jobs worldwide.”

Despite women being accomplished artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers, this year, 33 men took home Oscars to only six women, he added.

The theme of this year’s UN meeting, which ends on Friday next week, is “Empowering Rural Women and Girls,” whom Guterres called “particularly marginalized.”

According to UN Women, rural women do much of the work, but fare worse than rural men or urban women.

“Less than 13 percent of landholders worldwide are women, and while the global pay gap between men and women stands at 23 percent, in rural areas, it can be as high as 40 percent,” UN Women said.

Irish Ambassador to the UN Geraldine Byrne Nason, the commission chair, said its work would focus on these women “who are furthest behind” and are “disproportionately affected by violence, poverty, climate change and hunger.”

“We want to make a difference. We have had enough rhetoric. Time is up for the debates that are long on promises and short on delivery,” Byrne Nason said.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told the opening session that nearly one-third of employed women work in agriculture and there are 400 million women who are farm workers.

“Half of rural poor women in developing countries have no basic literacy, and 15 million girls of primary school age will never, never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school,” she said.

A rural girl is “twice as likely to be married as a child” compared with an urban girl, she added.

Progress toward gender equality is slowing and some gains are even reversing, Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

She pointed to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, which found the gender gap widening in health, education, politics and the workplace for the first time since its research started in 2006.

“It predicts that it will take — and listen to this — 217 years before we achieve gender parity,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

“It has never been so urgent to hold ourselves and leaders accountable for the promises to accelerate progress,” she said. “The ‘Me Too’ movement and ‘Time’s Up’ has also showed us change can happen fast, and that women must be believed. This is a moment that we intend to sustain for all.”

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