United Nations Panel During the Commission on Status of Women Affirms Education is Key to Women Empowerment

March 6, 2013

On Wednesday, March 6, GFDD and FUNGLODE, in partnership with the Dominican Republic Mission to the UN, the Dominican Republic Ministry of Women, Reso-Femmes-International and the Alliance of Civilizations extensively collaborated on a Side Event within the framework of the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

This high level panel discussion under the overall theme “Education and Other Important Tools for Women Empowerment and
Gender Equality” uniquely brought together government, civil society and youth representatives from several different countries and continents, including the Dominican Republic, African states and Haiti, to speak about best practices of empowering women in their respective countries. Central to the discussion was the theme of education in the DR as one of the tools to empower women that was presented by the honorable guest, Alejandrina Germán,
the Minister for Women Affairs in the Dominican Republic.

The two additional speakers, Nadege Chell, the President, Reso Femmes International, and Anniete Cohn-Lois, Soy Mujer project, London International Model United Nations (LIMUN), gladly shared with the distinguished audience the work that they do as civil society organizations in the field of empowering women through education, and how academic tools can be utilized, so as to
advance women’s status to intermediaries in society.

The welcome remarks were made by H.E. Ambassador Virgilio Alcantara, Permanent Representative of the DR Mission to the UN, and Asunción Sanz, Director of the GFDD office in Washington D.C. The moderator
of the session, Dr. Hanifa Mezoui, UN Alliance of Civilizations, duly noted that “having the high level people today with us, such as a Minister and an Ambassador, explicitly means that we are on the right track to resolve the posited problem of the empowerment of women.”

In her invaluable presentation, Ms. Germán started off with the importance of education in general, and in the
Dominican Republic in particular. The country is referred to as a model state where women have risen to participate in every aspect of society thanks to education. The first educational institution for women in the DR appeared in the 19th century with the establishment of the teachers’ training institute. It was a big step forward in Dominican education that led to a great result that the country is proud of today – “as worthy heiresses of their predecessors,
females make up 62% of today’s university population and 66% of college, and honors, graduates.” Notwithstanding, several studies conducted in the Republic in 2000’s attest that even though there has been an evident feminization of Dominican education in last decades, the country still has the challenge of breaking the barriers stemming from traditional views on a woman and the cultural division of labor. The Minister stated that it is undeniable that education
is the most effective way to enhance parity between men and women, and an important tool to prevent and combat violence against women. “To the extent that we continue to make progress in the educational development of women, concluded Ms. Germán, we will achieve their empowerment and economic independence and to the same extent we will be able to prevent and combat violence against them.”

As a north-African scholar and political anthropologist, Nadege
Chell featured best practices from Reso-Femme-International in utilizing education as one of the most important means to delegate power to groups and minorities that are discriminated on the basis of disability, race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Ms. Chell and her team work to advance political, economic and civic opportunities for women in West African countries. Through its holistic anthropological approach, Reso-Femmes-International provides coherent training to female leadership in
Burkina Faso and Mali equipping them with strategic knowledge to challenge national traditional practices aimed against women and girls. As a result, “our trained women leaders”, remarked the scholar, ‘’ have become important intermediaries between population and local authorities. Their participation in national and international politics not only changes a traditional, obsolete view on women but also helps government create development policies that
eliminate violence against them.”

The last speaker, Anniete Cohn-Lois, engaged the audience in the interactive presentation of the project “I am Woman / Yo Soy Mujer and President of London International UN Model (LIMUN). The project’s mission was to empower 150 women in the Dominican
Republic and Haiti through three main objectives, such as access to economic opportunities, access to education through workshop and seminars, and provision of emotional support to encourage individual growth. The outcome of the “I am Woman” spoke for itself – investing in women’s empowerment in the country brings the state to a higher level of political, economic and social development.

In summation of the dynamic and effective session as a
Side Event to the 57th session on the Commission on the Status of Women, Dr. Hanifa Mezoui concluded with the words of the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “violence against women and girls cannot be tolerated in any form or context, by any government or political power. Every girl and woman has the right to be protected, valued and respected.” And, as we could see from today’s discussion, education is regarded as one of the most important means of empowering
women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to eliminate all forms of violence against them.

The 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women is bringing together government officials, representatives of the United Nations and civil society, the media and the private sector from all regions of the world. They are meeting at United Nations headquarters to review progress, share experiences and best practices, analyze gaps and challenges and
agree on priority actions to eliminate and prevent all forms of violence against women and girls. Additionally, the high-level discussion agenda encompasses the issue of equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care giving in the context of HIV/AIDS, and the reflection of key gender equality issues in the post-2015 development framework.

Alejandrina Germán – English | Spanish
Nadège Chell – English | Spanish | Powerpoint
Anniete I. Cohn Lois Eusebio – English

Panelists Bios:
Alejandrina Germán
Nadège Chell
Anniete I. Cohn Lois