Address by Jan Eastman, EI Deputy General Secretary during the interactive expert panel on "Key policy initiatives on financing for gender equality and the empowerment for women" on 26 February 2008 at the 52nd Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW), New York, 25 February - 7 March 2008.
Thank you Chairperson for the opportunity on behalf of Education International (EI), Public Services International (PSI) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to address this plenary session. We note that on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, we still have a long way to go, and have made slow progress towards achieving the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), including the goal 3: promote gender equality and equality for women. Speakers on the panel here today have referred to the need for laws, institutions, policy and reforms, funding and financing – and most importantly, political will. Our question is, what exactly are we prepared to do, what are we prepared to invest, and when are we prepared to do it? We concur with the speakers who identify political will as critical, and also reiterate the statement of Isabella Bakker that it’s time to move from rhetoric to investment. And I would add, it's time to move from rhetoric to action. My intervention will address three areas: investment in education, investment in decent work and investment in quality public services. Education We know that that education is a key means of empowering women, men and children, and is in itself a human right. It’s a means of eradicating poverty and it benefits societies in lasting ways. We now know, for example, that the education of girls is the best means of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. What we need is quality education that is universally accessible, free and compulsory until the age of employment – not a second class education for poor people and child labourers. We need well trained teachers who are adequately paid, along with well resourced classrooms and teachers. We’ll need 18 million qualified teachers by the year 2015. That's a sizeable investment. We know investing in education is essential to achieving gender equality. And it makes sound economic sense. What more proof do we need? It's time to move from rhetoric to investment, and from rhetoric to action. Decent Work We know that globalization has a disproportionate impact on women. Structural adjustment policies promoted by the international financial institutions have led to privatization, which has pushed many women into the informal economy and into even more unpaid, unregulated and unrecognized work. We know that that having access to paid work is critical to family survival, but by itself it is not sufficient for reducing poverty or empowering women. Decent productive work for all should be the goal. Full employment and decent work policies are essential to poverty eradication and the realization of internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs. We know the International Labor Organization (ILO) Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCPs) provide an important set of engendered instruments that should (or could) be incorporated into national-level development strategies. The decent work agenda, with its four strategic dimensions – employment, social protection, fundamental principles and rights at work, and social dialogue – provides a framework for and outlines a range of key policy interventions that would be effective in lifting women out of poverty and securing their well-being and that of their families. We urge the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to integrate decent work language into the Agreed Conclusions. Investment in decent work makes good sense. What more proof do we need? It's time to move from rhetoric to investment, and from rhetoric to action. Quality Public Services We know that quality public services – including water, sanitation, housing, education,and health care – are essential to alleviating poverty, and to achieving gender equality. And they are critical to implementing the decent work agenda. Around the world, women continue to have the main responsibility for caring for children, the sick and the elderly. Lack of basic services constrains their entry to and ability to fully participate in paid employment and training programmes. The public sector has traditionally been a source of good jobs and pension security for women. The push to privatize basic public services and cuts to government spending as meant that women have lost paid, secure employment. That’s not what we mean by decent work. We need an investment in quality public services in order to achieve gender equality and, by extension, all the other MDGs. What more proof do we need? It's time to move from rhetoric to investment, and from rhetoric to action. Conclusion We reiterate, investing in gender equality is a matter of political will. It is time to change rhetoric to investment. It’s time to change rhetoric to action. It's time to practice, not to preach. Investing in education, quality public services and decent work will mean dignity, respect and hope for all people of the world. Thank you.