Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on her visit to Ukraine, women par­tic­i­pa­tion in re­forms, pol­i­tics and peace process

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Un­der-Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral and Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of UN Women

My short but mean­ing­ful stay in Ukraine has con­vinced me that I need to come back again, be­cause there is so much ex­cite­ment and so many things that we can and should be do­ing to­gether. This visit gave me an op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with the Gov­ern­ment, Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, part­ners, and women in civil so­ci­ety. We are fully be­hind the ef­forts of the Gov­ern­ment to drive the change for­ward, to re­duce the im­pact of the con­flict, and to en­sure that women are re­silient and are able to stand on their own. I have the first hand in­for­ma­tion from the women, both about the chal­lenges they face and the de­ter­mi­na­tion they have to take their sit­u­a­tion into their own hands. One of the most en­cour­ag­ing things about the women in Ukraine is that they have high level of ed­u­ca­tion. This is al­ready a strong ad­van­tage which we do not ex­pe­ri­ence in other coun­tries deal­ing with sim­i­lar is­sues. I think for donors and in­vestors to not take full use of this is to de­lay the trans­for­ma­tion re­quired by the coun­try. Be­cause if you in­vest in women you in­vest in a na­tion and a change that is sus­tain­able and far-reach­ing. The longer we de­lay to in­vest in women, the longer we de­lay to get the change that we want.

In ad­di­tion to that, the eco­nomic growth that is re­quired by the coun­try, in­clu­sive growth which en­sures that you change the lives of the next gen­er­a­tion, can only be achieved if you in­vest in women. All the part­ners and donors who have not seen this as the most strate­gic in­ter­ven­tion, must know that the clock is tick­ing against us. This is the best in­vest­ment with the high­est rates of re­turn. And there is a lot of data to prove it.

At the macro level, in­sti­tu­tions with gen­der di­verse lead­er­ship out­per­form their peers in terms of pro­duc­tiv­ity and con­tri­bu­tion to GDP. At the mi­cro level, women rein­vest their in­come in the best in­ter­est of their fam­i­lies. They use the re­sources they have to im­prove the health of the fam­ily mem­bers and to ad­dress their ed­u­ca­tional needs. It just comes nat­u­rally that women have the best po­ten­tial to carry wealth into the next gen­er­a­tion. When they have more eco­nomic means, they take care of well­be­ing of their chil­dren so that they grow up more pros­per­ous.

Canada and Swe­den were among the first ones to sup­port Ukraine on the way to gen­der equal­ity. The CEDAW in Ac­tion Pro­gram funded by Canada will help Ukrainian women to bet­ter un­der­stand and pro­tect their rights. Be­cause when women un­der­stand their rights, i.e. the re­pro­duc­tive rights, the rights to ed­u­ca­tion, the rights to po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion, they take charge and make change hap­pen not just for them­selves, but also for ev­ery­body. CEDAW is an iconic in­ter­na­tional in­stru­ment to look at our­selves and to share our suc­cesses with other na­tions.

Swe­den sup­ports Ukraine through its Gen­der and Equal­ity at the Cen­ter of Re­forms Pro­gram. Re­forms are a par­tic­u­lar mo­ment in the his­tory of a na­tion, es­pe­cially when there is a con­flict. In a way it is a sil­ver line in a cloud, when you are try­ing to ad­dress some­thing which was oth­er­wise a tragedy, you ac­tu­ally cre­ate an op­por­tu­nity to move for­ward. We have seen this ad­van­tage of re­forms bring­ing about far-reach­ing gen­der equal­ity in Colom­bia. The peace process has cre­ated one of the most ad­vanced re­forms and ben­e­fits for gen­der equal­ity that they could not have had if there was no con­flict.

Also, when women are in­volved in the peace process the qual­ity of the peace is much bet­ter. The ev­i­dence of other coun­tries shows that the con­flict reignited much sooner, when the peace process was not in­clu­sive. And when women par­tic­i­pated in it, peace lasted longer. For in­stance, when dis­cussing repa­ra­tions, women will not just look at the repa­ra­tions for com­bat­ants. They will look at the repa­ra­tions that should go to the com­mu­ni­ties to re­build the schools, clin­ics, roads. They will ad­dress the is­sues of those who did not fight but were af­fected by the con­flict, in­clud­ing pro­vi­sion of psy­choso­cial sup­port. Gladly, a grow­ing num­ber of men start think­ing like that, but this is be­cause women have been con­sis­tently pro­vid­ing their lead­er­ship in this area.

We did a study our­selves look­ing at the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Res­o­lu­tion 1325 in af­ter a pe­riod of 15 years and the key trend was that re­forms are a piv­otal mo­ment to in­crease women po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion. You set tar­gets for par­tic­i­pa­tion of women and women stand up and rep­re­sent them­selves. That is why you have seen higher num­ber of women par­tic­i­pat­ing in pol­i­tics in Afghanistan, not­with­stand­ing many chal­lenges that they do have in their coun­try. It is hard to be­lieve, but there is higher par­tic­i­pa­tion of women in Afghanistan than in the U.S.

I would also like to note the im­por­tance of ratifying the Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion. We ap­pre­ci­ate the changes that you have made, the laws that are in place, but it is also im­por­tant to com­plete the picture. And it is im­por­tant to set cer­tain stan­dards for your­self which you can com­pare with the stan­dards that other peo­ple in sim­i­lar po­si­tion have set for them­selves. It also helps fill in the gaps in the na­tional leg­is­la­tion. So we look for­ward to sup­port you as you rat­ify the Con­ven­tion and to cel­e­brate with you when it hap­pens.



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