News/UN: Armed conflict worsens plight of women, say ...

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Subject: News/UN: Armed conflict worsens plight of women, say ...
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Thu Oct 14 1999 - 11:11:16 EDT


          UN: Armed conflict worsens plight of women, say ...

OTC 10-14-99 12:24 PM

 OCT 14, 1999, M2 Communications - Women would take part in a tribunal to
be established for adjudicating the crimes against humanity committed
during the 1994 genocide in his country, the representative of Rwanda told
the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this afternoon as
it met to continue considering issues related to the advancement of women
and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on
Women (Beijing, 1995).
   Many women and girls who had been the victims of the worst atrocities
during the genocide were now traumatized, he continued. In the genocide's
aftermath, many widows were now heading households. They lived in abject
poverty, lacked shelter and access to medical services because of
financial constraints. Stressing that the world had witnessed the
atrocious crime of systematic rape being used as a weapon of war, the
representative of Pakistan said that the plight of women and girls became
worse in situations of armed conflicts. The representative of the Russian
Federation suggested that the international community work harder on the
prevention of conflicts in order to prevent human suffering.
   The representative of India warned that the ability of developing
countries to implement laws related to the advancement of women was
severely hampered by the impact of globalization. International
cooperation was crucial to offset that impact.
   The representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said
his organization worked for women's advancement in the context of a
rights-based approach. It relied on analysis and programming to assess
causes of problems, and it required linkages between problems and
available resources to resolve them. The principle of universality was
central to the rights approach: gender issues had to be integrated into
social and economic policy and legislation. Speaking on behalf of the
Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the representative of St. Lucia said
awareness of issues such as violence against women had increased but
implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action was lagging. "We should
not cross into the twenty-first century without crossing the threshold
>from awareness to implementation", she said. To combat complex issues such
as violence against women, coordinated action was needed.
   The contrast between women of different regions highlighted the role of
regional frameworks in structuring the rights of women and creating
empowerment, the representative of the Republic of Korea said. Regional
initiatives could have a great impact since culturally and economically
they could be more directly adapted in a region-specific context.
   Statements were also made by the representatives of Brunei Darussalam,
Mongolia, Nepal, Romania, Tunisia, Solomon Islands, Argentina, Nigeria,
Kenya, Morocco, Sri Lanka and Equatorial Guinea.
   The Committee will meet again at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, October 14, to
conclude its consideration of issues related to the advancement of women
and implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women
(Beijing, 1995).
          Committee Work Programme
   The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this
afternoon to continue considering issues related to the advancement of
women and implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on
Women, held in Beijing in 1995. (For background information, see Press
Release GA/SHC/3521 of 11 October.)
   FLORENCE CHONG (Brunei Darussalam) said that while the opportunities
and impact of globalization had been discussed, sight should not be lost
of its effect on women in rural areas, as indicated in the
Secretary-General's report. The vulnerability of economies as a result of
a volatile world financial market and the economic downturn in parts of
her region had adversely affected the ability to earn a livelihood,
especially by women.
   National strategies and actions for the advancement of women had led to
a significant increase in women's participation in all areas of life in
her country, she said. Equal access to education for both men and women
had contributed in large part to that increase.
   TSOGT NYAMSUREN (Mongolia) said that in sub-Saharan Africa women
composed some 70 per cent of the total labour force in food production. On
the other hand, in Asia women accounted for some 50 per cent of the total
agricultural production force. The full extent of rural women's role in
the agricultural sector and in other sectors of the rural economy was not
yet fully known nor recognized. Comparative research on that issue was
greatly needed.
   Women made up 50.4 per cent of the total population of 2.4 million in
her country, she said. About 45 per cent of the entire female population
lived in rural areas where they lead nomadic or semi-nomadic lives. The
transition to a market economy had brought both opportunities and
challenges for the rural population. The privatization of about 30 million
heads of livestock had instantly turned herdsmen into owners thus
contributing to the improvement of their economic wealth. On the other
hand, the dismantling of the State-subsidized health service with free
access for all had negatively affected the living standards of the rural
population.
   SHARADA POKHAREL (Nepal) said her Government had adopted a policy to
prevent all forms of violence against women, so that the protection of
women's human rights could be ensured. "We urge the international
community to provide adequate support for the rehabilitation of women who
are victims of violence or who are refugees or displaced", she added. That
would greatly help the United Nations to continue its pursuit for all to
have a life full of respect, dignity and equality.
   The gender gap in education persisted in her country in both
quantitative and qualitative terms, she said. A separate Ministry of Women
and Social Welfare had been established to dedicate itself to the overall
development of women. Policies and programmes, such as provision of
scholarships, had been adopted with a view to increase women's access to
formal and non-formal education.
   MIHAELA BLAJAN (Romania) said the Beijing Conference had had a great
impact on the policies of governments and on the activities of civil
society. National action plans had been elaborated and implemented through
partnerships among governments, United Nations organizations and
non-governmental actors. Romania's national action plan was part of its
overall reform process. The main objectives were to create and develop
institutional machinery to: coordinate policies to advance women; improve
economic conditions for women; prevent violence against children and
women; and integrate gender equality in all fields of social, cultural and
education life.
   Two important draft laws had been elaborated and were currently on the
Romanian Parliament's agenda, she said. One provided for equal
opportunities between men and women. It prohibited direct and indirect
manifestations of discrimination based on sex and in the field of labour.
It defined and prohibited sexual harassment and established neutral
conditions for job announcements and employment. The other draft law
concerned paternal leave and it aimed for the equal and effective
participation of the father in taking care of a child and reconciling
family life with professional life.
   SONIA LEONCE-CARRYL (St. Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean
Community (CARICOM), said the century was closing with an awareness of the
special issues facing women, such as gender equality and violence against
them. The same success could not be applied to implementation of the
Beijing Platform for Action. The achievement of those aims had remained
below target. "We should not cross into the twenty-first century without
crossing that threshold from awareness to implementation", she said.
   One problem faced by women in the CARICOM countries was the lack of
data, she said. The complexity of violence against women indicated it was
a multifaceted problem needing coordinated action at many levels. Many
countries had formulated national programmes and initiated legislation to
address that issue. Some fundamental economic issues also had to be
addressed, she said. Whatever the name for economic reform phenomena
today, it translated into increased poverty and decreased social benefits
for CARICOM people. ALEXANDRE ZMEEVSKI (Russian Federation) said women
continued to be discriminated against in society as a whole as well as in
the family. The role of women worldwide was changing very rapidly. The
transformation of many countries towards market economies had affected
women.
   During his country's transition to a market economy, purchasing power
had dropped and many people had lost their jobs. Unfortunately, women had
been the most affected, many of them losing jobs. In order to alleviate
the great costs of last year's financial crisis, many programmes had been
put in place, such as entrepreneurship and management training for women.
   The number of women and children who were victims of armed conflicts
and other crises was considerable. They needed support. The international
community must work harder on the prevention of conflicts in order to
prevent human suffering. Also, the negative effects of sanctions should be
considered. He supported the setting up of an international system of
cooperation that would address how to better manage the process of
globalization. The international community faced a great challenge in how
better to organize the world economy, taking into consideration gender
issues.
   ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) said the situation of women worsened with poverty.
Development and prosperity were closely linked to the advancement of
women. Women's role in society constituted a catalyst towards development.
An environment conducive to combating poverty needed to be established.
His Government had amended its constitution in order to better reflect the
principles of gender equality and non-discrimination. In those terms, the
principle of no discrimination was made essential in his country's
national policies. In addition, his country's legislation promoting gender
equality and education reform had set forth specific measures in order to
keep girls in schools. As for health policies, a basis for the improvement
of reproductive health had been established.
   JEREMIAH MANELE (Solomon Islands) said institutions in his country
promoted the rights of women, but women were not aware of their rights.
For example, while women, had the right to vote and participate in
political life, both men and women must be made aware of women's ability
to do so. It was vital to realize the importance of women's contribution
to national decision-making and to overall advancement of the country.
   Illiteracy was a major obstacle to the advancement of women, he
continued. Studies had shown that the educational level of the mother had
a direct bearing on the health and overall well-being of her children and
family. Above all, education empowered women to participate and contribute
meaningfully to national progress. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs),
especially churches, had played essential roles in the welfare of Solomon
Islands women. Last year, the government had adopted a National Women's
Policy. However, lack of resources and weak coordination remained major
obstacles to the effective and timely implementation of national policies,
programmes and projects. The INSTRAW had to be supported, so that it could
expand its activities.
   ANA MARIA RAMIREZ (Argentina) identified one problem as a lack of
women's participation in decision-making. The elimination of cultural
stereotypes, especially as they applied in the economic area, was one of
the hardest changes to be brought about in any society. That issue should
be addressed at the special General Assembly session on women next June.
The work of the International Research and Training Institute for the
Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) was also important in that regard; INSTRAW
should be continued. Also invaluable were United Nations programmes of
technical assistance and political advancement for women. The United
Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) was important in that respect.

   The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women (CDWN) had been key in overcoming obstacles that existed in
the legislation of many countries, she said, citing such examples as the
hierarchy between genders at the national level. Such problems were best
attacked through specially targetted educational campaigns. If the new
century opened with the advances for women that had been made in this
century, she concluded, women would make rapid advancement.
   OLUSEGUN AKINSANYA (Nigeria) said since the Beijing Conference, his
Government had taken several steps to advance the rights of women. The
Federal Ministry of Women's Affairs and Youth Development, headed by a
female Minister, had been established as a result of a merger of the
former Ministry of Women Affairs and that of Social Development. The aim
was to achieve better coordination, efficiency and integration of all
programmes on women's rights. The new Ministry was also designing and
implementing programmes on women's rights and on their empowerment.
   Simplified manuals and workbooks on the twelve critical areas of
concern in the Beijing Platform for Action had been published, he
continued. Those manuals were intended to change wrong beliefs, attitudes
and practices still being used to discriminate against women. Other
measures that his Government had taken included creating awareness on the
problems of early marriage; mobilizing, via radio and television,
discussions which raised the status of the girl-child; and the re-
launching of the Universal Basic Education scheme to provide free primary
education to the girl-child.
   MARIAM AFTAB (Pakistan) said women continued to be victims of
discrimination and violence within the family and society at large. Their
contribution to society remained largely unrecognized. Women constituted
the majority of the world's 1.5 billion poor, and represented two thirds
of the world's 960 million illiterates.
   Poverty made women vulnerable to exploitation, she emphasized. The
trafficking of women had its roots in widespread poverty, particularly in
developing countries. The plight of women and girls became worse in
situations of armed conflict. "Early this decade the world witnessed the
atrocious crime of systematic rape being used as a weapon of war in the
Great Lakes Region in Africa and in Bosnia and Herzegovina", she added.
Violence against women continued to be used as a weapon of war against
innocent women and girls in Kashmir where people were struggling for their
right of self-determination.
   AUGUSTUS MUSENGA (Rwanda) said women and girls had been the victims of
the worst atrocities during the 1994 genocide in his country. Most of them
had been victims of extreme brutality. Many had been minors, young girls
who were even now traumatized. In the genocide's aftermath, many widows
were now heading households. They lived in abject poverty, lacked shelter
and access to medical services because of financial constraints.
   Urgent resources were required to provide shelter, support and income-
generating activities for women, he said. Even more urgently needed was
legal representation for women not familiar with their rights. The Rwandan
parliament had outlawed all forms of discrimination against women. Forums
in which women could express their views without intimidation had been
established. A Ministry of Gender was headed by a woman and a fair number
of women were in the parliament. The former Minister of Women in
Development had been appointed to head the National Unity and
Reconciliation Commission, which indicated the confidence of the
government in women's role in the process of reconciliation for the
country.
   Other parliamentary actions to amend laws and redress discrimination
against women were being taken, he said. A women's communal fund had been
set up and women councils from the grass roots to the national level had
been created. Women would take part in adjudicating the genocide cases and
crimes against humanity committed during the genocide. The tribunal would
be 30 per cent comprised of women.
   SUH DAE-WON (Republic of Korea) said improving the rights of women
throughout the world required innovation in both national and
international law. Breaking discriminatory practices and protecting
women's rights called for solid foundations. To overcome the overwhelming
difficulties still faced by many women, governments and civil society
needed to scrutinize their own societies and form a partnership in
applying new codes of conduct and behaviour. There was a body of
international laws to improve the rights and lives of women across the
world, but women would continue to struggle and risk marginalization
without a propitious environment. Political will and commitment had to be
the backbone for all initiatives for women's equal treatment and gender
mainstreaming. The contrast between women of different regions highlighted
the role of regional frameworks in structuring the rights of women and
creating empowerment, he said. Regional initiatives had the potential to
make a great impact since they could be culturally and economically more
directly adapted in a region-specific context.
   ROSELYN RUTH ASUMWA ODERA (Kenya) said her country's Women's Bureau,
the national machinery for women, had initiated the process of
implementation by distributing copies of the Platform for Action to key
players. In addition, the Bureau had developed a training manual to
promote gender sensitization at the district level and to formulate
district-specific action plans. Female-headed households in her country
constituted 47 per cent of the rural and 29 per cent of the urban
population living below the poverty line. Also, women accounted for a
disproportionate share of the agricultural labour force, constituting 70
per cent of its work force, but only controlling 38 per cent of its
operations. "Considering that agriculture accounts for 25 per cent of
Kenya's gross domestic product (GDP) these figures are significant", she
added.
   AICHA AFIFI (Morocco) said political will and effective international
cooperation were necessary to improve the situation of women worldwide.
Poverty, malnutrition and strenuous work had deprived women of their basic
rights. Her country had implemented several means for harmonious action to
offset disparities. It had always given great priority to women's issues
because of their important role in the family, which was the basis of
society. Her Government had organized a national campaign to fight
violence against women. It was organized in conjunction with
non-governmental organizations and included information and education
programmes to sensitize the population on issues related to violence
against women.
   A national strategy to integrate women had also been created in her
country. It had focused on education, reproductive health, the integration
of women in economic development and the reinforcement of women's power in
political and judicial areas.
   MADURIKA JOSEPH (Sri Lanka) said that globalization, together with
declining international cooperation in development, had resulted in
increased marginalization of women in rural areas throughout the world. To
improve that situation, a number of actions should be taken. There should
be investment in women's development through education, health and
nutritional programmes. They should be empowered through promoting their
participation in rural institutions and at all levels of decision-making.
Strategies incorporating a gender perspective and a focus on creating jobs
should be included in national development and poverty alleviation
programmes. Geriatric care should be provided to the rural elderly with an
emphasis on their special problems. There should be a raising of awareness
and promotion of reproductive health. Outlining numerous steps taken by
Sri Lanka to promote the rights of women, including the work of a Women's
Affairs Ministry, she brought attention to the plight of women migrant
workers. Those women suffered numerous abuses, including violence. Those
who were trafficked and those who were employed in sectors such as
entertainment, tourism and foreign domestic work were especially
vulnerable. Disseminating information about the rights of migrant workers,
both in receiving and sending countries, would help relieve those workers
>from exploitation. It was regrettable that the international convention on
the rights of migrant workers had been ratified by too few countries thus
far, she said. In view of the urgency of the issue, it should be ratified
by enough countries to come into force in 2000.
   SADIG RASHEED, Director, Programme Division, the United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF), said UNICEF's focus in the follow-up to the
Beijing Platform for Action was on girls' education, gender equality and
equity, primary health care and child survival, prevention and control of
HIV/AIDS and the reduction of maternal mortality, all within the context
of a rights-based approach. Adopting a rights- based approach required
sharpening of analytical and programming skills to assess the causes of
problems facing women and children. It required better linkages between
problems and the available human, financial and organizational resources
needed to resolve them.
   Achievements in guaranteeing the rights of women and children had been
significant and were a cause for celebration, he said. As the six
billionth child was welcomed into the world yesterday, however, many
challenges lay ahead and there were many obstacles to be removed in
advancing women. Annually, 600,000 women still died during pregnancy. Even
today, 600 million women still could not read.
   He said UNICEF had developed new approaches to tackle the problems
rooted in gender inequality and systematic discrimination against women
and girls. The principle of universality was central to the rights
approach; UNICEF was bringing attention to the fact that gender issues had
to be integrated into social and economic policy and legislation.
   ESPERANZA-GERTRUDIS DAVIES (Equatorial Guinea) said her Government had
emphasized the participation of women in decision-making processes.
National programmes were intended to make women recognize and enjoy their
rights. Also, programmes to reduce poverty by giving credits to rural
areas had been established. In addition, other programmes to give rural
products access to national markets and possibly international ones had
also been created. Various non-governmental organizations had been created
in her country; they had collaborated with the social sectors. The
international community needed to understand that by educating a woman,
the entire population was educated. Many times, progress depended on
financial resources, but in others, there were socio-cultural difficulties
that could not be overlooked, she said. Her Government had emphasized the
advancement of women in three major areas, health, education and the
economy.
   ASITH BHATTACHARJEE (India) said more than 407 million of the world's
women lived in his country. His Government had focused on institutional
and other supports with special attention to the girl-child. The
Department of Women and Child Development was charged with the task of
advancing development of women in all their aspects with a particular
stress on rural women. A significant number of women were becoming
Ministers.
   Globalization was contributing to increasing marginalization of the
poor, he said. Income disparities had deepened. There was an increased
exclusion of some countries which lead to insecurity of communities as a
whole. "If the social development agenda does not succeed, the advancement
of women would be at stake", he said. Likewise, if the Beijing Platform
for Action was not pushed ahead, no social development and social
integration could take place. No matter how active developing countries
were in enacting laws that supported the advancement of women, their
ability to implement them was severely hampered by the impact of
globalization. International cooperation was crucial to offset that
impact.
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    Copyright 1999

Melanie Orhant
morhant@igc.org
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