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UNICEF Executive Director speaks up for women at Clinton Global Initiative
US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who chaired the session, said women have a critical role in building a better future but are hindered by poverty and dependence. “If you want to improve the well-being of society, focus on women,” she said. “But why can’t we get that across?”
Empowering women is vital to improving child development, and Ms. Veneman cited three main strategies to help achieve that: education for girls, an integrated health system for women and children, and better laws to protect women’s rights.
Education and health care
“We know that women do about 66 per cent of the work in the world, they produce 50 per cent of the food but earn 5 percent of income and own 1 percent of property,” Ms. Veneman noted.
“Girls’ education in particular is absolutely critical if women are going to get ahead,” she continued. “We know there are many things that keep girls out of school, and there are strategies that do help get girls in to school and students in school – whether it’s elimination of school fees, helping to pay for uniforms, books and so forth.
“The second thing I think is very important is looking at integrated health care approaches that begin with the pregnant mother. Make sure you are going to have a healthy baby and then you will begin to address the issue of child mortality. This is part of the whole issue of women and poverty.”
‘We can get results’
On the issue of changing laws to protect and empower women, Ms. Veneman pointed to Rwanda as an example of success.
“Rwanda right now has the largest percentage of women parliamentarians anywhere in the world – about 48 or 49 percent. It’s made a huge difference,” she said. “They are creating laws against sexual violence, laws on inheritance of wealth. I think we need laws that allow women to have economic opportunity and I think if we take a multi-pronged strategy with women, we can get results.”
Senator Clinton thanked Ms. Veneman for summing up the main issues of the session. She added that it is also important for businesses to become partners by changing conditions for women and giving them better economic opportunities – which in turn are certain to improve children’s lives.