Women Empowerment: A Religion of the 21st Century

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Dr Ion Jinga HeadshotReflections by HE Dr Ion Jinga, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York, published in Huffington Post on 20.10.2015.

Motto: “Women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer“. British writer Charlotte Brontë in the novel “Jane Eyre”, 1847.

2015 proves to be iconic, a year of celebration and of a new beginning. On 24th October, the United Nations Organization celebrates 70 years of its existence. As Ambassador of Romania to the UN, I am proud to say that my country is also celebrating 60 years since it has joined the Organization. At the 70th anniversary of the UN, Heads of State and Government made a political commitment that will guide our actions for the next 15 years on the three dimensions of the sustainable development – economic, social and environmental: Agenda 2030, which brings a new vision on ending poverty and “leaving no one behind”. In fact, Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development just cannot leave behind half of the world’s population. One of the 17 sustainable development goals – Goal no. 5 – is “Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls”.

In 2015 we celebrate 20 years since the adoption of a landmark document for the empowerment and rights of women and girls from all over the world: the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. On September 27th, in New York, China and UN Women co-hosted the high-level “Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment”, an event in conjunction with the UN Summit on the Agenda 2030 and as part of the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration.

On that occasion, over 70 world leaders made concrete commitments and firm pledges to overcome gender equality gaps by 2030. One of them is the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis. He is also one of the 10 (Heads of State) x 10 (CEOs) x 10 (Presidents of University) IMPACT Champions of the UN Women solidarity movement for gender equality, He4She. Thus, men in power act to empower women in their countries.

On October 7-9, the Utah Valley University hosted the 4th edition of the International Women of the Mountains Conference, a stimulating debate in the context of the 2030 Agenda, on education, economic issues and health, but also on human trafficking and exploitation of women and children, with panelists coming from five continents.

I was honored to be one of the speakers, as Romania has been a longstanding supporter of the Mountain Partnership (one-third of its surface is covered by mountains) and the Romanian Government made successful efforts in order to empower women. Our most recent General Action Plan on Gender Equality (2014-2017) specifically encourages the balanced participation of women and men in decision-making, by promoting affirmative measures to increase the number of women in leadership and accelerate the building of a new gender-sensitive generation.

On October 13th, the Spanish Presidency of the Security Council organized an open debate celebrating 15 years since the adoption of its Resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. Women’s active participation in peace processes has proved to be absolutely relevant for making conflict resolution and peacebuilding more effective.

In Romania, the first female officer in the armed forces was the second lieutenant Ecaterina Teodoroiu, who died heroically in the WW1, and in WW2 one of the first women-pilot in the world, Smaranda Braescu, fought as a reconnaissance pilot.

Women in military uniform as a full-time profession began to appear in my country in 1973. We have now women with the rank of general and there is an increased number of military female staff participating in international missions. Romanian Female Engagement Teams were assigned to engage Afghan women and girls in the Zabul Province, in order to empower them into their own societies.

The commander of the South Region within the UN Mission in Haiti is Romanian chief superintendent Raluca Domuța. She was awarded the International Female Police Peacekeeper for 2015. This is is an excellent example of the added value of gender component in the UN peacekeeping and special political missions.

Romania has co-sponsored the Resolution on Women, Peace and Security, adopted by consensus on October 13th, thus joining the call for more determined action by all stakeholders in order to move forward the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

Gender equality is a necessity of contemporary societies and the progress made on women’s rights, over the past two decades, is remarkable. Women now occupy leadership positions in education, sciences, and public life. They excel in many domains thanks to their skills and abilities. We cherish all their achievements which have tremendously transformed for the better the world we live in.

But there is still work to do. In the 21st Century, no one should be excluded, regardless of the gender. Women empowerment is a new religion. It is not only the natural think to do, it is the smart thing to do.

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