Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Women Leaders and Critical Gender Perspectives

Event Title: Women Leaders and Critical Gender Perspectives
Sponsor: Society for International Development (SID)
Location: AED
Date: 7h March. 2007
Time: 12:30 pm- 2:00 pm
Approximate Number of Attendees: 60
Intern Attending: Aramide Bajulaiye

Featured Speakers: Ms. May Rihani, senior Vice President and Director, AED Global Learning Group and Director, AED Center for Gender Equity; Dr. Sarah E. Moten, Chief, Education Division, Africa Bureau, USAID; Indira Ahluwalia, Chief Executive Officer, Development & Training Services, Inc.; and Ms. Karen Sherman, Chief Operating Officer, Women for Women International

International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on progress made, call for change, and celebrate the acts of courage and determination by women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their nations and communities. In the International Women’s Year of 1975, the U.N. began celebrating the 8th of March as International Women’s Day. The U.N. provided two reasons to celebrate the world’s women. They were to recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress required the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to strengthening of international peace and security.

Dr. Sarah E. Moten led the discussion by stating that women are like a “change agency,” able to make a smooth transition from the kitchen table to the board table. In the past fifty years women have emerged in the world to lead both nations and organizations as presidents and CEOs. Last year was a year of celebration as two prominent women took office as heads of states in their countries. Michelle Bachelet Jeria entered the presidential office in Chile, and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia was sworn in as the first elected female head of state in Africa.

Dr. Moten brought to attention that Rwanda, a country still emerging from genocide, has come a long way in currently having the world’s highest proportion of female members of parliament, ahead of Sweden. She spoke on the efforts being made in Africa by organizations such as the African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS, which includes 40 First Ladies from all regions of Africa.

Education, particularly for girls, is an important part of their campaign to increase understanding of how HIV can be prevented and treated. Girls can also learn the attitudes and skills that enable them to resist peer pressure. Educated young women have lower rates of HIV/AIDS, healthier families, and higher rates of education for their children.

Ms. May Rihani, an internationally recognized expert in gender equity and girl’s education, discussed the importance of a secondary school education for girls. Besides being a time when a girl develops her self-esteem and self-confidence, Rihani noted that secondary school education: (1) results in health and social benefits to the whole society; (2) is a strategy to mitigate HIV/AIDS, and lastly; (3) is a tool for poverty alleviation. Two cycles emerge with secondary education. One which exists between the lack of secondary education for women and poverty. And another that highlights the impact education can have on lifting women and their families out of poverty.

There are several reasons why girls in developing countries, specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa, are not in school. These reasons stem from economic and educational constraints such as opportunity cost and restrictions of poor-performing students from advancement. Additionally, distance to schools, poor student treatment, and lack of female teachers impact the participation of girls.

Ms. Indira Ahluwalia presented a Development and Training Services presentation on, “Gender in the Economic World.” Women make up one third of the world’s agriculture workforce and are the biggest contributors to social and economic development. However, they are challenged by lack of access and use of productive resources. Several of the constraints to women’s participation in economic activities include reproductive responsibilities, access to information about opportunities, wage gaps, discrimination, cultural taboos, and increased risk in conflict and post-conflict scenarios. The risks of having gendered social norms in society is that there is less human capacity contributing to the economy, thus it is important that these norms be revisited and recognized as unjust towards women.

No comments: