9 September 2010

Statement by Permanent Delegate of the Russian Federation to UNESCO Chairperson of the UNESCO Executive Board Mrs. Eleonora Valentinovna


Minister of Culture of Greece, Madam Director-General of UNESCO, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Distinguished high-level panellists, Dear members of the organizing committee, Excellencies, Colleagues and friends, Dear women, I am particularly happy to be here today, because I know that Greece and its National Commission for UNESCO are dedicated to women’s advancement and to UNESCO’s action in this field. Today’s event is an opportunity for all of us. It complements the efforts of the international community in addressing the challenges on the way towards gender equality. The year 2010, not yet over, is already marked by several historic achievements translating the universal commitment to this global priority. The first-ever elected female head of UNESCO has begun her term of office; and a new entity, UN Women, has been created. This encouraging trend must inspire us as we advance towards the term of 2015 and beyond. For this purpose, good practices were shared and future directions prospected at the numerous events around Beijing+15. During the past 15 years, coordinated, targeted advocacy at the national, regional and international levels was essential, but not sufficient. The analysis of the current global situation shows that women are still unequally represented in the labour market: 62% of them against 38% of men are in low-status jobs. Only 21% are employers. Women still do not have the same access to political and national institutions. For example, women’s parliamentary representation globally was 12.4% in 1990, rising only slightly to 15.9% in 2005. The rate of violence against women and girls is still extremely high. Depending on countries, from 40 to 80% of women are victims of different forms of violence. That means that almost every minute of every day a woman or a girl is being harassed, raped or murdered. Poverty, illiteracy, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition are threats affecting mostly women and girls. The good news is that nearly two-thirds of developing countries have now improved the situation, especially in rural areas. However, it is too early to speak about radical changes in societal development worldwide. Despite the almost universal acceptance of women’s rights at the formal level, women’s secondary status and the oppression of women persist, both in countries that top the United Nations gender equality index or those at the bottom. Please allow me to speak about my own country. Since the last century, the Russian Federation has not officially known inequality of rights between women and men. In fact, since the 1917 Revolution, gender parity has been inscribed in all fundamental State laws and documents. For decades, equal access to education has allowed women proudly to achieve a higher academic level than men. However, on average, women in Russia are still underestimated, underemployed and underpaid. Their representation at top-management level is less then 30%. While the general movement forward is positive in itself, let us ask ourselves why these transformation processes are so slow. In my view, the answer is that no one society has yet managed to take fully into consideration its cultural and religious origins when taking political and legal decisions on the relationship between the genders. Different cultures have always evolved in parallel, and the cultural aspect of the development of each society has always been predominant. Could we aspire to gender equality solely on the basis of political decisions? That has to be the first necessary step on the way towards parity between women and men. And it is de facto possible while respecting the cultural inheritance appropriate to each society, which has its own traditional view regarding women. Discrimination will persist as long as gender stereotypes are alive within the cultures. It seems to me that to be successful in advocating for the inclusion of women’s rights and gender equality, we must obtain sensible changes respectfully in different cultural environments. This should be done, first and foremost, through education, UNESCO’s primary strategic objective. Education, thanks to its great capacity of transformation, is a first necessary step towards ensuring that girls and women have equal access to, and equal benefit from opportunities in all areas throughout their lives. UNESCO needs a proactive systematic and holistic approach for the pursuit of gender equality to be applied to the entire education system. The Organization, in its quest to bring knowledge, particularly in the context of a more digitalized world, needs to be a leading promoter of the strategic use of new technologies for education, research and networking. It is also important to reverse the media “protection” of the established gender order, considering that young people are constantly exposed to an extensive and diversified media environment. Furthermore, specific educational programmes targeting the eradication of all forms of violence against women must be widely implemented. I am particularly pleased to emphasize that gender approach will be one of the subjects for discussion during the first ever World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education, which is to be held in Moscow from 27 to 29 September this year. It is certainly an appropriate time for rethinking childhood education programmes, which are of great significance for the achievement of the Education for All and Millennium Development Goals. A child carries the consequences of a lost education for the rest of her or his life. Sustained investment in education is a driving force for a sustainable recovery, as well as for the elimination of gender disparity. As a matter of fact, development goals need to be reviewed and enriched from a gender perspective. And, of course, enough financial resources will guarantee an effective and sustainable work. I think that, both for political and financial reasons, UNESCO should strengthen its partnerships with G8 and G20, which have become important forums for international economic cooperation. There is no need to create a superwoman. Our final goal is to ensure for all women equal rights that will enable them to obtain opportunities and make free choices throughout their lives. The influence of women themselves is crucial as to how it will go and with what results. That is tremendously important! Men’s participation in this process is also fundamental. We need to strengthen the very broad promotion of human rights values. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights teaches us that all human beings should enjoy the same rights and opportunities, and their roles and functions should have equal value. This is precisely what was meant in the Beijing Declaration, that “women’s rights are human rights”. Women’s rights are universal. As such, they are also a universal responsibility of every human, woman or man. Today, in 2010, developments in human rights and education reveal that as far as Millennium Development Goal of gender equality is concerned, the world still has a long way to go. In the run-up to the debates that will be held in the coming weeks in New York, it must be pointed out that gender equality is the missing link in the peace and development equation. I am confident in our collective determination and hope to see so many goals achieved by 2015. We still have time and must redouble our efforts. I have no doubts regarding women’s great peace-building and constructive potential. Only with equal efforts and commitment, from both women and men, can we reach mutually profitable economic development, social cohesion and peace. That is the very essence of a harmonious life in our families, in our societies, and on our planet. My best wishes for successful thematic discussions and substantial outcomes for the Forum. Thank you for your attention.