First Lady, Gbeneol, Others List Women Empowerment As Panacea For Sustainable Development

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As the global community brainstorm on a suitable successor framework for the Millennium Development Goals which winds down in less than 700 days, stakeholders at the on-going 58th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) are advocating for a standalone goal on women’s empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda, which they said is key to the global quest for a sustainable development.

Speaking at the side-event with the theme: Realising Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in Africa: Achievements and Challenges in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and Lessons for the Post 2015 Development Agenda, Nigerian First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, represented by the Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Zainab Maina stated that the empowerment of women and girls as well as related issues of gender equality must be given priority attention beyond MDGs.
“In crafting this MDGs successor framework, Africa must not lose focus as it canvasses for a standalone gender goal for inclusion in the Post-2015 Agenda. While the task ahead is daunting and the challenges obvious, I am hopeful and have no doubt looking across this hall that we all have what it takes to chart a common front that will ensure that the interests and priorities of African women and girls take centre place in the Post-2015 Development Framework.” Mrs Jonathan stated.
In a statement issued by the Head, Information and Communication in the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, Dr Christopher Otabor, the first lady added that Nigeria has within the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan exceeded the international recognised 35% affirmative action as well as created the enabling environment for women in elective positions at Federal, State and Local Government levels.
In her remark the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, Dr Precious Gbeneol posited that the world in general and Nigeria in particular cannot achieve a world of dignity for all until there is an end to the challenges of gender inequality in all its forms.
“Evidence demonstrates that investing in women matters for poverty eradication.  Nigeria lends her voice to the truism that the MDGs can only be achieved by addressing the disproportionate burden of poverty that affects women, lack of equal access to education and health services as well as lack of productive employment for women. We reiterate that gender is a determining factor in poverty-environment linkages as gender inequality, environmental deterioration and deepening poverty are mutually self-reinforcing. Improvement in any one of these three enhances livelihoods, improves resilience and reduces vulnerability.”
Gbeneol added that in “paying due consideration to the foregoing, Nigeria is implementing high impact interventions specifically targeted at women. Conditional Cash Transfer Schemes reach thousands of core poor, women-headed households as an incentive that stimulates demand for the uptake of educational services for the girl child and health services for women and children. The Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme has the transfer of agricultural enterprise to women as an exit strategy in order to forestall a culture of dependency. In the space of three years, Nigeria’s Conditional Grants Scheme provided interventions such as 12,347 water facilities, 5,206 health facilities, 3,136 classroom blocks and training for 68,430 different cadres of health workers, amongst others.”
Dr Gbeneol also submitted that the newly introduced Village Health Workers Scheme engages 4,710 citizens who are predominantly women.
“We continue to collaborate with the Nigerian Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development, the Honourable Hajia Zainab Maina, to develop policies on gender, child rights and social welfare for vulnerable groups as well as implement interventions to drive these policies and domesticate international conventions to reduce violence against women, genital mutilation and trafficking of women. Although Nigeria has made significant strides by advancing women political empowerment especially into appointive positions, we continue to strive in order to expand the political space for women so as to make incursion into elective offices which are at the moment dominated by men. The Nigerian Women Trust Fund launched by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in 2011 with funding from my Office provides technical support and resources for women interested in leadership to contest for elective positions. The Fund also provides a mentorship scheme for girls while interfacing with the Nigerian Electoral Commission as well as political parties in order to create space and an enabling environment for women to participate in politics. The synergies we have built with sister agencies and different tiers of Government have ensured that interventions such as the Almajiri programme, the Girl Child Education programme, vocational training schemes for women and psycho-social support for persons with disabilities, amongst others, yield the intended results.” She stated.
Since their adoption in 2000, the Millennium Development Goals – the MDGs – have made a huge difference, helping to set global and national priorities and fuel action on the ground. They have raised awareness and shaped a broad vision for development work around the world. UN Women is actively working on achieving the MDGs, for which women and girls play a pivotal role, as well as for MDG3, which specifically focuses on promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. With less than 700 days to go, the CSW is joining the United Nations system in creating the momentum needed to improve lives ahead of the 2015 deadline.
The Commission reaffirms the vital role of women as agents of development noting that gender equality, the empowerment of women, women’s full enjoyment of human rights and the eradication of poverty are essential to economic and social development, including the achievement of all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
However, the Commission is also concerned that several critical gender equality issues were not covered by the MDGs such as violence against women and girls, women’s   disproportionate share of unpaid care work, women’s equal access to assets and productive resources, the gender wage gap, women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and women’s equal participation at all levels of decision-making. The Commission recognizes that unless all dimensions of gender inequality are address, gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment cannot be achieved. It also recognizes that progress on all the MDGs for women and girls has been held back due to the persistence of unequal power relations between women and men and discriminatory laws, social norms, practices and stereotypes as well as lack of systematic gender mainstreaming and integration of a gender perspective in the design and implementation of the MDGs.
In accelerating the achievement of the MDGs and laying the ground for prioritization of gender equality,  women’s  rights and  women’s  empowerment  in  the post-2015 development agenda, the Commission calls on States to: realize women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of all human rights; strengthen the enabling environment for gender equality; maximize investments in gender equality and  women’s  rights; strengthen the evidence-base for gender equality; and ensure  women’s  participation  at  all  levels   and strengthen accountability.
In a 28th point agreed draft conclusion the CSW seeks amongst others: realizing women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of all human rights; Strengthening the enabling environment for gender equality; Maximizing investments in gender equality and women’s rights; Strengthening the evidence-base for gender equality as well as Ensuring women’s participation at all levels and strengthening accountability.
The Commission said it is deeply concerned that overall progress for women and girls across all the MDGs remains slow and uneven, both within and between countries. It is especially concerned about the lack of progress for the most marginalized groups of women and girls and those who experience multiple forms of discrimination based on gender, status, age, income, geographical location, language, ethnicity, disability, and race, or because they are rural or indigenous women and girls, or women and girls living with HIV and AIDS.  It is also concerned that the MDGs are least likely to be achieved for women and girls in countries affected by conflict.
The 58th session of the CSW has more than 6,000 registered representatives of the 193 Member States, UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) present to discuss the challenges and achievements in the implementation of the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ahead of the 2015 deadline. The final discussion document will contribute to shaping a future development agenda, with some participants pushing for a standalone goal on women’s empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda.
This year’s meeting of the Commission comes ahead of the 20th anniversary of the landmark Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, adopted unanimously by 189 countries at the conference, is considered the key global policy document on gender equality, addressing critical areas such as women and poverty, violence against women and the human rights of women. Within the two weeks, CSW participants will also discuss women and girls’ access to education, training, science and technology, as well as women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.
As the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon noted while declaring the session open, “more girls are in school, but we are far from ending gender disparity at all levels of education,” the top UN official said, highlighting that gender gaps are particularly stark among rural populations and for persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups.
Mr. Ban said that the UN is also committed to helping Governments provide the education and quality sexual and reproductive health services that too many women and adolescent girls lack. “Child deaths are dropping significantly, but too many children still die needlessly before the age of five,” he said. “The number of women who die each year from pregnancy and childbirth has dropped by almost half, but too many women still die every day due to pregnancy-related causes.”
In her remarks, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said that the MDGs and the Beijing Platform for Action are both about making the lives of women and girls better. “We have to align our post-2015 efforts with this purpose. For more positive outcomes in the future, let us plan the future with greater impact and sustainability in mind.” She went on to say that the struggle for woman’s empowerment is more than 100 years old and there is a determined intergenerational force that wants to see a sense of urgency and determination on behalf of the world about avoiding the possibility of wasting another generation. “We can and must do better because equality for women is progress for all! We must make today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today,” declared Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka.

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