Permit me at the outset to congratulate you on your election as President of the Bureau. On behalf of more than 500 million Indian women (and equal number of men), I wish you all success and hope that you would successfully navigate the Board, in pursuing its goals on gender equality and empowerment of women.
My felicitations to the Executive Director and Under Secretary-General, Madam Michelle Bachelet for her statement and our complements for an extremely insightful and detailed report on the operational activities of UN Women, which has been placed for consideration by the Board.
As we begin the third operational year of UN Women, I would like to recall the goals that we set out in the Strategic Plan when we had just embarked on our first steps, after creation of this entity. We had then called for it, to be ‘ambitious, achievable and results oriented’. Today, at the beginning of the third operational year of UN Women, my delegation is happy to note the significant milestones that UN Women has achieved under the dynamic leadership of Madam Bachelet, in such a short span of time.
I am particularly pleased to learn from the operational activities report that UN Women has made strengthening and expanding ‘partnerships’, its key edifice, while pursuing and implementing its mandate, especially by forging active partnerships with civil society stakeholders, NGOs, academia, media and the business community. We are also happy to learn the unique manner in which social media has been used as part of globally driven communications strategy to achieve an audience of 40 million, through social media alone!
Section IV- D, of the Report on Operational Activities, focuses on the theme of ending violence against women and chronicles UN Women’s efforts in achieving the same. I choose to begin my first submission on that theme today, because it is of particular interest to my delegation, and finds resonance, especially in the aftermath of the horrific rape incident that was witnessed in my capital on 16 December 2012.
Representing a country which is home to more than 500 million women, let me first place on record Mr. President, that for me and for my Government, even one incident of violence against any woman or any girl, is an incident too many, and simply unacceptable.
The edifice of the Indian society is premised on the all embracing power of the Indian woman – which in our ancient thought and religious belief, bestows her the power to create, nurture and transform. She is not only worshipped as ‘Durga’ the goddess of creation, but also as ‘Saraswati’ – the inspiration for all music, poetry, science and learning.
It is therefore absolutely reprehensible that such an horrific tragedy happened on Indian soil. While it would remain a blot on the strong feminist credentials of the Indian societal fabric, the incident indeed shook the whole conscience of our nation at its very roots.
Let me assure you, Mr. President, that the Government of India will ensure that the culprits are brought to speedy justice, and the sternest possible message sent out by giving them the punishment they deserve. The Government of India shares the collective anguish of all Indians, on this most horrific incident, and today’s report of Justice J S Verma’s Committee has suggested ways to initiate a series of steps to ensure that such crimes do not happen again.
We believe in the dictum that: “No country can achieve its full potential without adequately developing the capabilities of its women.” And that is why women in India have always played a pivotal role in shaping our national discourse and policy making. Economic empowerment of Indian women at the grass roots level, especially through the Self-Help Groups has been a hall mark of India ‘s success story. Out of the six million self help groups in India, more than 80% (about 4.8 million) are women’s groups, which have provided microfinance, employment and livelihood, and have made a defining change in the lives of millions of Indian women at the village level.
Mr. President, allow me to flag two more issues of particular relevance to our discourse on operational activities for UN Women:
After intense deliberations, member states were able to adopt in the 67th UNGA, the QCPR resolution, which set out the overall policy direction for UN’s development operational activities for the next four years. Within the same, we have been able to ensure a very strong focus on keeping gender equality and women’s empowerment as the cornerstone of all development activities, and that UNWOMEN should take the lead in ensuring accountability of the UN system when it comes to delivering on these variables, especially, in terms of results and impact.
We would therefore call upon UNWOMEN to make full use of the empowering mandate given by the QCPR Resolution to make operational activities of the UN development system truly transformative for women and girls everywhere.
As we plan for our activities for the next four years, we must also try to work out modalities whereby the ‘actionables’ on gender equality and women’s empowerment as flowing from the QCPR, are implemented through programmes and projects of UN Women, as well as other funds and programmes. We must also work out means to dovetail these into those country programmes, whose periods are synchronous with the time frame of the QCPR resolution.
Secondly, while there is growing recognition that investing in gender equality and empowerment of women is critical to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, given the current financial environment, work on gender equality and empowerment of women does remain chronically underfunded. We hope that the comprehensive resource mobilisation strategy of UN Women, would certainly widen the donor base in order to secure the resources required by UN Women in meeting its global commitments.
Even the QCPR resolution has endorsed the imperativeness of a critical mass of core resources to be made available. Being a recently created entity, this is more than critical for UN Women, as it would enable you to strengthen your programmes on the ground and implement the Strategic Plan. In this regard, there is a need for donors to increase their contribution to core resources by giving UN Women the foremost priority for enhanced funding, till it secures a firm footing of its resource pool.
Being fully cognizant of this funding requirement, just last week we moved beyond what you called ‘love and fresh air’ and contributed our third installment of US$ one million to UN Women’s core resources, taking our total contribution to US$ 3 million so far, since its inception. It is but a small part of Government of India’s firm commitment of five million US dollars to provide core predictable funding to UN Women. If we have to ensure that UN Women stands for action, the donor community must make generous contributions to UN Women. We will continue to provide full political and financial support to UN Women and call on others to do likewise.
Given that South South cooperation and development of national capacities is a key component of the UN Women’s implementation strategy, we are particularly pleased to learn about the success of the ‘South Asian first ever virtual knowledge hub’ for elected women’s representatives, that Madam Bachelet launched in Jaipur, during her visit in October last year to India, which has been an epitome of success at empowering women at grassroots democracy.
Let me conclude, Mr. President, by reaffirming India’s steadfast commitment to all round social, economic and political empowerment of our women, whatever effort and resources, the task might take. We assure you that India will always be willing to walk the extra mile, in having the goals outlined in the Strategic Plan implemented at the earliest.