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Women & The Courage to Lead - Global Summit

Deputy High Commissioner Kyung-wha Kang on Human Rights Day encouraged women worldwide take the lead in the quest to eliminate discrimination and embrace diversity.

“Women produce half of the world’s food, and their work accounts for two-thirds of the world’s working hours. And yet, women earn only 10 per cent of the world’s income and own less than one per cent of the world’s property,” Kang said in a keynote address to “The Courage to Lead”, a global summit for women leaders taking place in Geneva from 8 to 10 December.

She pointed out that with only six years remaining until the 2015 deadline set to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, at the current rate of progress, the target of eliminating gender disparity between girls and boys in primary education would be very unlikely to be achieved.

The summit brought women from over 30 countries to Geneva on the occasion of Human Rights Day to explore ways that women’s human rights can be best protected and how women leaders can best contribute to this struggle in their countries.

Non-discrimination is the theme of this year’s Human Rights Day. “Discrimination has many aspects, and is frequently multi-layered,” said the Deputy High Commissioner.

“Those who are discriminated against on the basis of race, for example, encounter further discrimination because they cannot access education, health or development programmes.

“People with disabilities constitute the world’s largest and most disadvantaged group. For example, 98 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not go to school. Indigenous peoples make up five per cent of the world’s population, but 15 per cent of the world’s poorest people,” she said.

Kang highlighted the importance of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which turns 30 years old this year, in promoting gender equality. For example, it obliges states parties to eliminate prejudices and practices based on stereotyped roles for men and women.

“These underlying prejudices and practices determine gender roles, entrench discrimination in other contexts, such as education and participation in decision-making, and also render women more vulnerable to many forms of violence, including trafficking,” she said.

Noting that the Convention pioneered the concept of substantive equality for women and girls, she added "Women and girls will not be equal until they enjoy the same opportunities and privileges as men in reality. Where women and girls have not attained substantive equality, the Convention underscores the need for States to adopt strategies to help them realize it." 

The three-day summit, organized by the Eleanor Roosevelt Project of the George Washington University and non-governmental organization Vital Voices Global Partnership with the support of the UN Human Rights office and the International Labour Organization, concluded on 10 December with an address by United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton via videoconference.

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