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From the UN: International Women's Day 2008
Submitted by admin on 12 March, 2008 - 09:06
International Women's Day, on March 8th, 2008, had at its theme "Investing In Women and Girls. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon observed that "investing in women is not only the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do. I am deeply convinced that, in women, the world has at its disposal, the most significant and yet largely untapped potential for development and peace."
His statement reflected the increasing acknowledgement that the best hope for the future of the undeveloped world is the empowerment of women, and the increasing recognition of the damage caused by the inequality women suffer worldwide.
Microcredit, which began with small loans to impoverished women has had an explosive growth. The number of poor women receiving them has jumped from 10 million in 1999 to 69 million in 2006. The beneficial effect of this growth far outweighs the initial costs. Empowering women with credit has had notable results, as had investment in women's education. One research report shows that for every year a mother is in school child mortality drops 10%. Other benefits follow: educated women raise smaller families, slower population growth with hope for a better life for their children. Educated women are better managers, increasing family income and encouraging education for their children. Wages increase by about 20% for each additional year of schooling. In Africa and South Asia, where literacy and school enrolment rates are low, the returns of education are particularly high.
Ban Ki-Moon asks that all in the international community, governments, multi-lateral organizations and the private sector dramatically increase investment in women and girls. Some strategies the Secretary General suggests beyond increasing micro-credit and micro-finance, are making mainstream financial services more available to women and promoting laws that eliminate discrimination by financial institutions. At the UN he promises to almost double the staffing of the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and significantly increase resources for the Division of the Advancement of Women.
Worldwide, in spite of widespread discrimination against women, a positive note:more girls are in school, more women are in business and in parliaments. Yet donor governments who agree in principle to the need for more help for women in underdeveloped countries have not followed their words with action.
Sabine de Bethune, a Senator of the Christian Democratic Party in Belgium comments on this failure: "It is lack of commitment and essentially of political will."
The need is enormous. Nearly 65% of the world's illiterates are women. Three-quarters of the world's refugees are women. Women contribute more than their share of work, two-thirds of all the hours of labor in the world, yet they earn about one-tenth of the world's income and own one percent of the world's property.
The condition of women in the USA is far from ideal, yet here there has been progress. As an example of the dropping of gender barriers, Muriel Siebert is the Founder and Chairwoman of the Muriel Siebert &Co. and the first woman to become a member of the Stock Exchange. After a long struggle Ms Siebert has triumphed-- she has received 18 honorary degrees for her efforts in expanding opportunities for women storming the financial markets and creating role models. Her goal now is to create personal financial literacy as a required course in American schools.
Goldman Sachs Group, Inc has launched a program, 10,000 Women, a global initiative to invest in the power of women as entrepreneurs and managers through partnerships between universities in the US and Europe with business schools in emerging and developing countries. In addition to funding tuition, this program will work with development organizations to understand local challenges and establish mentoring and networking channels.
The task of facing discrimination against women worldwide is enormous. But it is a real step forward when the Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, a leader in American business, states that the connection between women and economic growth is enormously powerful and there can be no sustainable development if half the world's talent pool is stymied or underrepresented. One Goldman Sachs project is entitled, "Women Hold Up Half The Sky." Amen!
Phyllis Ehrenfeld, President of the National Service Conference of the AEU and NSC Representative to the UN. Dr. Sylvain Ehrenfeld IHEU Representative to the UN.