Empowering women everywhere to achieve sustainable development

NARRATOR: “It is impossible to achieve sustainable development anywhere unless the world is prepared to develop, protect and empower women everywhere. So says Elizabeth Thompson of Barbados, the Executive Coordinator of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, scheduled for Rio in 2012.
During a panel discussion on gender equality and sustainable development, presentations focused on raising the profile of the women’s agenda in the run-up to next year’s “Rio+20″ summit, which would review the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
Ms. Thompson told the Commission on the Status of Women that she welcomed the opportunity to discuss looking at the road to Rio and how it can be used to lift the platform and agenda for women all over the globe.

TAPE: The conference has three objectives – two of which are to renew political commitment to the issue of sustainable development and to consider what gaps in implementation of policy relating to sustainable development have been. I think this brings us to the very important question of what is the role of women in achieving sustainable development globally. There is no doubt that despite the Beijing and other women’s-related agendas that the face of poverty is predominantly female; that women though they are roughly 50 % of our population, still 70 per cent of the people who live in poverty across the globe are female; that today the majority of people who remain unemployed remain women; that they are paid on average 17% less than men for doing the same jobs; that they still do not have control of health and reproductive rights; that in most instances, they have little control over family or national assets.

NARRATOR: Ms. Thompson pointed to statistics that show where women had reached in terms of leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies, noting that only 3 percent are held by women Chief Executive Officers; 6% are at managerial level and 15 per cent of Boards are female.

TAPE: These are interesting statistics that reflect the level of growth or lack of that women face in trying to compete in a world that is predominantly male in relation to the business sector. But why do women need to be included? There is no doubt that the financial crisis would have impacted more significantly on women and marginalised more women pushing more into poverty than it would have men because they would have started from behind anyway. But as the child bearers, child givers as child rearers, as the caregivers predominantly in family and society, if you think of it from a purely business perspective, there is no CEO who would choose to alienate half of the resources available to his company. So if you cast sustainable development in sheer financial, economic and business terms, then it is critical for us to use the pool of women across the globe to attain sustainable development because they represent a tremendous pool of resources at the human level.

NARRATOR: Ms. Thompson stressed that if there is to be sustainable development globally, there must be a critical investment in human and social capital. And she stressed that that human and social capital includes the female population.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 4’06″

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