8 March 2010

High-Level Round Table on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995


Dear colleagues and friends, Ladies and gentlemen, Dear Women! It is a great pleasure for me to participate in this round table and to share the podium with such eminent female representatives. Please allow me to share with you my thoughts, first of all as a woman, but also as a woman Ambassador of the Russian Federation and as the fifth woman to chair UNESCO’s Executive Board since its creation. Each year around the world, International Women’s Day is traditionally celebrated by hundreds of events that take place not just on 8 March but throughout the month. International organizations, governments and social groups choose different themes that reflect local and global gender issues, to which UNESCO is very sensitive. This year the international community will be engaged in a 15-year review of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, and the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, which guarantees women equal rights and opportunities in economic, social and political areas. Today also marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations very first celebration of International Women’s Day, in 1975. This year also takes us back to 1910, exactly 100 years ago, when Women’s Day, international in character, was established by a women’s conference in Copenhagen to honour the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. Since those early years, the growing international women’s movement has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences. Increasingly, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played, often through a struggle, an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. “One is not born a woman, one becomes one” said Simone de Beauvoir. Women are powerful agents of change – when they are given the opportunity. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that they are given that opportunity. This requires not only adjusting policies and practices but, most importantly, changing attitudes and habits. And here, each one of us must play a vital role. The empowerment of women is not only a fundamental objective in its own right. It is essential in addressing the range of complex challenges before us – from illiteracy and unemployment, violence and conflict, poverty and cultural poverty, to knowledge degradation and climate change. Gender equality is at once a key Millennium Development Goal and a prerequisite for achieving all the Goals together. After the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, the Russian Federation, like many other United Nations Member States, reaffirmed its commitment to creating institutional mechanisms for gender equality, eradicating all forms of discrimination against women, empowering women’s participation and mainstreaming gender in its national programmes. In 1996 Russia adopted a national strategy and plan of action to empower women. This covers State governance, including the legislative, executive and judicial branches of power as well as civil self-governance. The share of women in the economically active population in my country is high: about 90% of women finish high school education, with one or two diplomas. Small and medium-sized enterprises operated by women play a critical role in the economic survival of modest families. Over the last years women’s businesses have been developing rapidly. In the social field women’s businesses contribute to reducing both unemployment and poverty, and help prevent trafficking of women. In the field of social care, Russia provides a broad variety of family benefits to support parents in bearing and raising children. This includes maternity protection and benefits, often in combination with a birth grant, childcare leave, and child-raising benefits, subsidies for child-related goods and family services. Overall State spending on family benefits is constantly rising. Art the same time, Russian women continue to face serious difficulties in becoming involved in equitable numbers in the political process. At the same time, the lack of women’s participation in policy-making, lack of focus on the gender dimensions of social security and its different priorities such as equal opportunities and treatment for fully employed women, brake efforts to make gender mainstreaming operational in Russian social security reforms. Being in a constant process of improving this situation, my country is keen to draw inspiration from other nations’ successful policies, and is ready to share its own dynamic experience. During the past century the development of our societies has been marked by social, technological, cultural, sexual, digital and other revolutions, which have particularly affected women. That is because, to my eyes, no place was reserved for the spiritual dimension in all those metamorphoses. Despite progress made up to now in this difficult quest for gender equality, many challenges still lie ahead of us. As a strong awareness-raising mechanism, UNESCO has again placed itself at the forefront of the international struggle for gender equality. UNESCO made gender equality one of the Organization’s two priorities up to 2013 with its integration into all programmes and activities, especially those advancing the rights of girls and women, particularly in education. I am sure that further to many future 8 Marches celebrations, the sustained common efforts of UNESCO Member States, including the Russian Federation, and the Director-General together with the civil society committed partners, will lead us to THAT DAY when the international community as a whole, or at least one single country will address gender equality and women’s empowerment in education, the sciences, culture, communication and information, in terms of a memory and no longer as a permanent objective. In conclusion, I would like to pay tribute to all the eminent personalities and unknown individuals who have moved women’s empowerment forward from the very beginning. I would also like to encourage all those who will pursue the further promotion of this noble cause. And I would like especially to thank all the present actors in this slow and challenging but irreversible progress. Finally, I would like to wish all women peace and happiness in their hearts, families and lives! I wish you all a productive International Women’s Day celebration. Thank you for your attention. Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO