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Panel II: Dissemination of Gender Specific Information: Methodologies and Approaches

Introduction by Ms Angela E.V. King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women

Madame Chairperson,
Colleagues and Friends,

In my capacity as Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women I would like to warmly welcome you to this Panel on Dissemination of Gender Specific Information: Methodologies and Approaches. May I first of all commend FAO and its Director-General Mr. Jacques Diouf for initiating this dialogue on the importance of generating, disseminating and sharing information about rural women's activities and for organizing the past two days of stimulating discussions. Today is a special day as history is being made this afternoon in New York with the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in the General Assembly Plenary.

I wish to recognize our distinguished panellists of today; Ms. Paula Boyer, Mr. Bernard Cassen Director General, Le Monde Diplomatique from France; Ms. Sophie Ly, Secretary-General of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters from Senegal; Ms. Govind Kelkar, Professor of Sociology, Coordinator of the Gender and Development Programme of Asian Institute of Technology from India; Ms. Ruth Ochieng, Executive Director of Women's International Cross-Cultural Exchange from Uganda; and Mr. Manuel Calvelo Rios, Expert in Communication for Development from the Foundation for Regional Development in Latin America from Spain.

I believe that this Panel is most timely. As a recent World Bank report on knowledge management points out: "For the first time in human history, the entire planet is linked via satellites, telephones and electronic mail". In addition, the discussions on the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action are at an important stage. The close interrelationship between improving the status of rural women and information is beginning to be widely accepted. This Panel is invited to build upon the 1995 Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing, the 1996 Plan of Action adopted by the World Food Summit held in Rome and the 1992 Geneva Declaration for Rural Women adopted at the Summit on the Economic Advancement of Rural Women.

The Consultation is very timely for several reasons. First, next week from 11-14 October the General Assembly will discuss rural women with related items. Second, it precedes the next Preparatory Committee meeting in March 2000 for the Special Session of the General Assembly: Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace in the Twenty-first Century. This Special Session to be held 5-9 June 2000 will focus on 5 areas:

  1. A Political Declaration reaffirming the Platform for Action.
  2. A review and appraisal of the implementation of the 12 critical areas based on national plans of 115 countries; on responses to the questionnaire from 110 countries, States Parties reports to CEDAW and information from the UN system.
  3. Good practices, lessons learned, positive actions.
  4. Obstacles encountered and strategies for overcoming them and,
  5. Future actions and initiatives to accelerate implementation of actions within the 12 critical areas.

This gathering will be at the highest level of the UN, a Special Session from 5-9 June 2000. We hope to have the highest political level of representation from your States, from international organizations and from NGOs.

The tremendous support from NGOs to the world community and the full partnership with NGOs and civil society is borne out in the decision of the Economic and Social Council that all NGOs in, or seeking, consultative status or accredited to Beijing should be present.

NGOs role in implementing the Platform and in the preparations for "Beijing +5" is especially essential. Still to be decided are the modalities for their participation.

In the UN Secretariat, all regional commissions: in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut, Geneva and Santiago are holding preparatory meetings and are producing either special publications, revised Regional Plans of Action (ECA) or special studies. Studies are also being prepared by members of the UN Secretariat and system for example on trafficking (OHCHR), on gender indicators (ECLAC), globalization and impact on gender equality (IACWGE), violence against women: health aspects (WHO), women's progress towards empowerment (UNIFEM) and good practices in gender mainstreaming (UNDP & UNIFEM).

You may ask why I am focusing on Beijing +5 June 2000. There is a simple reason.

This High-Level Consultation here in Rome these three days, is an excellent example of strong information through participation in a particular area "rural women" which serves as an input to the review and appraisal. The findings of these consultations and the Strategy of Action to be adopted later should be forwarded to the Special Session or the Millenium Assembly.

I hope that Member States, other UN organizations and NGOs will look to this Consultation as a model way of bringing experts and decision-makers together for truly interactive, two-way debates to look at what we need to do to implement the Platform for Action more effectively. Actions directed to improving the situation of rural women and to achieving equality and human rights in this area are in seven of the Platform's 12 critical areas. (Poverty, health education, economy and environment, for example).

The high level segment of ECOSOC, this summer in Geneva, ably chaired by President Paoli Fulci of Italy agreed that rural women's work had to be a main focus of lasting poverty eradication and of their empowerment.

At this point I wish to commend Ms. Ekaas of the FAO Gender Division and her hardworking team for producing really excellent and thought-provoking documents, a film and a graphic statistical exhibition. These have already given us data we can share with the rural women and groups that are not present here.

Should the Strategy for Action prove successful at the national level this will be one excellent good practice of Governments working with the support of international agencies towards gender mainstreaming and ultimately gender equality in a particular sector.

To operationalize this Strategy, we need to train statistical staff and planners in gender analysis and assessments of gender needs, and develop methodologies for sex-disaggregated statistics. We need to set up new policies for gender-specific information flows from bottom up and top down. We need to involve rural women in data-gathering at the community level and in developing channels for passing the information gathered to planners and decision-makers, thus establishing a link between the two groups. We need to improve access of rural women to mass media and create an enabling environment in which rural women can voice their concerns, exchange best practices, share their aspirations and plan their destinies.

In my capacity as Chair of the ACC Inter-Agency Committee on Women and Gender Equality, I will give a few examples of information programmes and data being successfully implemented by United Nations organizations.

The United Nations Statistics Division, for example, is producing, in cooperation with the Division for the Advancement of Women, the third edition of the statistical publication The World's Women 2000: Trends and Statistics. This publication funded by several governments, agencies, funds and programmes will be devoted in its entirety to the coverage of the status of women all over the world. It will have comprehensive data on rural women, and will contain sex-disaggregated statistics on 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action, including poverty and women, and women and the economy. The Statistics Division also maintains and disseminates via the Internet country tables, as well as the Women's Indicators and Statistical Database containing a wealth information on rural women. Second, a core set of statistical indicators, including on rural women, is under development by the ACC Subcommittee on Statistical Activities. Third, UNDP publishes annually the Human Development Report containing disaggregated social and economic information by sex and other categories. It also has a framework for developing country databases on gender-sensitive indicators. Fourth, the United Nations Population Division incorporated gender specific data into a statistical database on economic statistics. Finally, UNFPA developed a framework and indicators to monitor women/gender considerations in programmes and policies.

Many United Nations organizations provide technical assistance to Member States in the application of tools for gathering sex-specific information. Our host - FAO - developed the Socio-Economic and Gender Analysis Programme (SEAGA) and trained statisticians to collect disaggregated data for the year 2000 World Agricultural Survey. UNESCO collaborated with other United Nations agencies and NGOs on a project for developing countries, illustrating how community development programmes could be tailored to meet the specific needs of rural women. ECA provided advisory services in the formulation of gender sensitive programmes for the economic empowerment of rural women and needs assessment. Finally in the last review of the system-wide medium-term plan for the advancement of women, special effort was made to highlight activities designed to assist rural women in all of the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform.

Not only does the United Nations system make special efforts in generating gender-specific information and providing technical cooperation, but it also provides channels for as wide as possible dissemination of information on rural women. The Department of Public Information of the UN Secretariat combines an extensive network of United Nations Information Centres and Services with a capacity to carry messages in the 15 most spoken languages, produce television and radio programmes and disseminate numerous publications. All United Nations organizations have their own outreach and public information capacities. United Nations conferences, special sessions of legislative bodies, workshops, panels and expert group meetings are excellent fora for raising issues on the status of rural women.

The UN system also disseminates information electronically. The Division for the Advancement of Women with UNIFEM, INSTRAW and some Member States maintains the WomenWatch web site which is a gateway to gender-related information and resources in the UN system, linking information available on websites of other UN agencies. On WomenWatch, users can also find information on preparations for Beijing +5 and statistics on women and gender issues.

Hundreds of organizations, including NGOs, women's resource centres, human rights organizations, UN agencies and many others link their websites to the information on the DAW and WomenWatch websites. The NGOs and women's associations websites also could be used for dissemination of information on rural women. The Women Action 2000 network, formed by NGOs during the last session of the Commission on the Status of Women, is now creating a "sister site" of WomenWatch to provide NGO information from around the world and link with the WomenWatch. Through the Women Action 2000 network, WomenWatch is now working in partnership with NGOs and women's organizations to "re-package" information on WomenWatch by translating it into local languages and broadcasting it on radio or publishing it as a newsletter.

For the last two days many speakers have expressed concerns that highly developed technological information systems will tend to exclude rural women more than ever. To cheer you up let me tell you about a remarkable experiment initiated by our colleagues in UNDP in collaboration with talented artists and sponsors. It's a website called "NetAid". The website was recently launched to make it easier for donors to contribute, as well as countries to learn more about conditions that foster poverty. It focuses on people who are in need and attempts to build a virtual community in which each individual may contribute time, resources or ideas. As the first fundraising and educational campaign to combine the power of the Internet, television and radio, NetAid will be a powerful multi-media vehicle for new information and ideas particularly in rural areas.

Our work in building capacities to implement the Beijing Platform for Action has taught us some important lessons. To be successful, capacity building must be based on real needs and local ownership. Policies and efforts driven by global concerns alone are not sustainable. Information strategies must therefore be country-driven and country-owned, and rationalized to the country's needs. At the international level, a strengthened inter-agency programme on rural women, coordinated through the IACWGE, the cornerstone of which will be the Strategy for Action, focused on information and statistics on rural women is now essential.

As we decide on future actions and initiatives for the global programme on women's advancement and for sustainable development to be decided at Beijing +5 let us think seriously about challenges to empower rural women including the full enjoyment of their human rights. Let us take home with us one or two actions from this meeting where we can make a difference by turning words into deeds in our countries. Let us be consistent in other fora: regional meetings, sectoral meetings of intergovernmental bodies and through our consistent advocacy get this issue more firmly on the global agenda.

I call for full partnership, men with women, in the effort to create better conditions for rural women so that they and their children can continue to live more secure lives. Let the information we generate dispel myths such as that empowered women threaten men's psycho, status and libido.

If I may end with a quote from the voices of rural women themselves, Testimonios reproduced by El Programa de Fortalecimento Mujer Rural de Argentina:

"We don't want to do things separately from our husbands, our children belong to both of us. We want to learn to help our husbands, and they must also help us. We are learning to decide together."

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