Efforts to achieve gender equality around the world must be accelerated, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told a gathering of women leaders in Seoul today, while also highlighting the special burden climate change places on women.
Wrapping up a two-day official visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK), Ms. Migiro addressed some 100 of the country's female leaders on a range of issues that impact the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight pledges world leaders made to halve extreme poverty and other ills by the target date of 2015 – including climate change.
“Women will need to spend more hours searching for water, seeking ways to feed their families faced by food shortages and much more,” said the Deputy Secretary-General.
Climate change cuts across a range of issues that affect women, from water management to energy to human settlements, she told the gathering, co-sponsored by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Ministry of Gender Equality.
“Against this background, it becomes even more critical to increase the participation of women at decision-making levels: in government, the private sector, trade unions, academia and in the community.”
The previous day she told the World Leaders Forum, also held in Seoul, that the UN is uniquely placed to facilitate the international cooperation required to tackle the challenges posed by global warming.
“These challenges also present an opportunity to take stock, re-focus and mobilize investments in clean technologies and natural infrastructure,” she told the meeting, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the ROK.
Using examples of “green growth” development in countries such as China, where 600,000 jobs have been created in the solar heating industry, and Nigeria, where the bio-fuels industry has employed 200,000 people, she said it is possible to achieve sustainable growth while combating climate change.
At today's meeting of female Korean leaders, Ms. Migiro also drew attention to the precarious position of women's economic empowerment in many parts of the world where fewer women than men have secure jobs in the formal economy.
She also stressed the urgent need for women to have access to reproductive health care, saying that more than 40 per cent of births in developing countries are not attended by a doctor or midwife and that some 500,000 women die annually from pregnancy-related causes.
“Progress has been made towards achieving the MDG target of elimination of gender disparities in education, with most gains in enrolment rations at the primary level,” she said.
Rwanda was singled out for praise by the Deputy Secretary-General for more than 50 per cent of its parliament consisting of women for the first time ever in history, although the global average of women's seats in parliament is less than 18 per cent.
“World leaders pledged their support for equal rights between men and women with the clear understanding that gender equality is essential for eliminating global challenges such as poverty, hunger and disease. In short, gender equality is essential for development that is truly sustainable,” Ms. Migiro stressed.