My felicitations to the Executive Director and Under Secretary-General, Madam Michelle Bachelet for her extremely informative statement and I would also complement UN Women for an insightful report on the progress made on the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women Strategic Plan 2011 – 2013, which has been placed for consideration before the Board.
Mr. President, when we embarked upon the Strategic Plan of UN Women in June last year, we had called for it, to be ‘ambitious, achievable and results oriented’. Today, one year down the line, at the midway mark of the second operational year of UN Women, my delegation is happy to note the significant milestones that the Strategic Plan has achieved under the dynamic leadership of Madam Bachelet, in such a short span of time.
I am particularly pleased to learn that UN Women has made ‘partnerships’ its key underpinning approach while pursuing its mandate and implementing its business model, especially by forging active partnerships with civil society, besides 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! The virtuous cycle of normative and operational work of informing and reinforcing the impact has been another value added for UN Women.
Mr. President, the way UN Women has been able to influence policy narratives across the globe, whether it be on issues as women’s rights in the new constitution under consideration in Egypt and Kenya, or services for gender based violence survivors in the occupied Palestinian territory, or in championing the rights of indigenous women in Ecuador, are, all small yet significant, milestones in a brief but important journey.
We also appreciate the work being done in India and our South Asian region, including in the SAARC context by UN Women in areas ranging from political participation and leadership, economic empowerment, ending violence against women and gender responsive annual budgeting.
We are also happy to learn that UN Women has been able to lay the foundation of a strong edifice by strengthening capacities of field offices in 33 countries, and basing them on ‘result based plans and effective budgeting’.
We also note the success UN Women has achieved in leading, coordinating and promoting the accountability of the UN system in a short time through the adoption of the SWAP framework by 51 entities. For UN Women to play a strong leadership role globally, as well as within the UN system, these are key imperatives for achieving results with limited resources.
Representing a country which is home to more than 500 million women, let me submit, that women’s economic and political empowerment has been the cornerstone of our policy making, all along. More so, when 69% of our total women population (nearly 405 million women) reside in the rural areas alone. It is in this context, that contribution of rural women to our GDP growth and their central role in poverty reduction has been a key guiding factor in the framing of our national policies.
Economic empowerment of Indian women at the grass roots level, especially through 4. 8 million women led Self-Help Groups (SHG’s) has been a hall mark of India’s success story. Covering over 97 million beneficiaries, these have provided microfinance, employment and livelihood, and have made a defining change in the lives of millions of Indian women at the village level.
While SHG’s are aimed at encouraging women to take up self employment, the launching of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in 2005, which is a gender sensitive nationwide employment scheme, has ensured that at least one third of the beneficiaries are women. Pertinent to point out that so far, 50% of the total person days of employment provided under the scheme have gone in favour of rural women alone.
In addition, as part of our flagship scheme of Indira Vikas Yojana, of the houses which are provided to families below the poverty line, it is mandatory that they are allotted in the name of the female member of the household.
This is in recognisition of the fact that if economic empowerment of women is to be sustained, ownership of assets by women has to be made essential. Also in our National Food Security Bill introduced in Parliament in December 2011, a specific provision has been made that only a woman can be treated as the head of a household for purpose of issue of ration cards and food entitlement documents.
I am also pleased to inform you that the Government of India has, as a Policy, adopted Gender Budgeting as a tool for mainstreaming gender to ensure translation of Government’s policy on gender equity into budgetary allocations. To institutionalize this process, we have initiated the formation of Gender Budget Cells within all our Ministries and Departments.
Mr. President, on the global scale and within the UN system, let me also point out the stellar role, that Indian women, in the form of a 100 plus ALL women peacekeeping unit, (which is perhaps the first ALL women unit of UN Police in history), have been playing as part of the UNMIL in Liberia since 2007 (in response to UNSC resolution 1325).
In addition to providing security to the President’s office, the ALL women Indian peacekeeping contingent provides Liberian children with medication, lessons on using computers and self defense. Since their arrival, there has been a transformative change in women’s participation in the security landscape of Liberia. The numbers speak for themselves. Five years ago, one in 20 Liberian police personnel was a woman. Now, nearly one in five is female! According to UNMIL itself, applications from women to join the police force tripled the year, after the all women Indian peacekeepers arrived.
Mr. President, allow me to flag a few issues of concern to the main agenda of the Annual session of the Executive Board.
First, the regional architecture review being presently considered by UN Women must aim to adapt the existing organizational structure in a manner so as to support the most efficient and effective implementation of its mandate. While my delegation welcomes the decentralised decision making envisaged as a result of this process, the balanced development of capacities at global, regional and national levels should be ensured to serve the critical functions you have identified.
Madam President, as you undertake the regional architectural review, you can count on my delegation’s full support for improving the organisational structure of UN Women to make it a more dynamic, decentralized, cohesive and a well connected UN entity.
Second, the report of the progress achieved in the strategic plan has identified a few key challenges that UN Women faced in 2011, especially the systematic exclusion of women from peace negotiations and their economic exclusion. While identification of such critical challenges is important, it may also be worthwhile suggesting approaches to address these challenges in the future strategic plans, so that decision makers are able to factor such approaches during the policy formulation stage itself.
Third, work on gender equality and empowerment of women continues to remain chronically underfunded. If we have to ensure that UN Women stands for action, the donor community must move beyond the political rhetoric of just stated commitments, and transform them into the much needed monetary support for the organization.
We hope that the comprehensive resource mobilisation strategy would help in widening the donor base in order to secure the resources required by UN Women in meeting its global commitments. Let me also re-iterate that as part of our stated commitment of five million US dollars to UN Women’s core predictable funding, India has already contributed two million US dollars to UN Women, so far. We will continue to provide full political and financial support to UN Women and call on others to do likewise.
Let me conclude, Mr. President, by reaffirming India’s steadfast commitment to the all round social, economic and political empowerment of our women, whatever effort and resources, the task might take. It is up to us, members of the Executive Board to ensure that Madam Bachelet and her team are given the necessary authority, mandate and resources to deliver. We assure you that India will always be willing to walk the extra mile, as UN Women embarks upon this journey.
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