Give women their due

Updated: 2013-03-08 07:07

By Irene Giner-Reichl and Marija Adanja (China Daily)

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It is a good thing that for many Chinese International Women's Day is not only an official event, but also a real occasion to celebrate women and their irreplaceable contribution to the development of modern China. We have all been impressed by the hard work, expertise, resilience, good cheer and dedication of Chinese women.

But International Women's Day is also a reminder that in most countries equality between women and men is still elusive. Discrimination and violence against women are pervasive in all regions of the world. As much as ever, global solidarity and action are needed.

We, several female ambassadors and representatives currently accredited to the People's Republic of China, feel we should all join forces even more vigorously to ensure the full enjoyment of women's rights everywhere and to prevent violence against women wherever it occurs. We can exchange views and best practices on how to achieve dignity and integrity for all women and an end to gender-based violence, economic independence for both women and men, equal pay for work of equal value as well as equality in decision making. We appeal to the media to continue to build public awareness of the need for equality between women and men.

Almost 20 years since the last International Women's Conference was held in Beijing in 1995, the global picture of the status of women is truly bleak.

All over the world, women continue to suffer violence simply because they are women. They are gang-raped or abused by intimate partners. They are killed or maimed in the name of honor, for dowry issues, as a result of the preference for sons or for lobbying for polio vaccinations or basic schooling for girls. Women are specifically targeted in armed conflict.

When war ends, women are largely absent from the negotiating tables of peace processes and are not included in recovery and state building. Participation in political and economic decision-making is uneven from one country to the next, but large strides are necessary almost everywhere to ensure that all societies can draw fully on the potential of their women. Globally, women account for only 17 percent of the representatives in national parliaments, according to the UN report, The World's Women 2010. The percentage of woman mayors is even lower. Glass ceilings are frequently experienced by woman leaders in all aspects of social, economic and political life.

As we rally for more energetic action for women's rights, it is important to remember that women are not a minority and not a vulnerable group. Women represent one half of humanity; they hold up one half of the sky, as Chairman Mao Zedong said. They teach in schools and work in hospitals; they keep our farms and factories going and care for our children and the elderly. Economic, social, cultural or religious arguments cannot be construed to deny women's human rights.

The 21st century offers significant challenges to all our societies. We will stand a better chance to negotiate them successfully, if we can draw on the combined resources of women and men. Once women are able to participate in all social, economic and political decision-making process on an equal footing with men, we will also make progress in eliminating the root causes of systemic violence against women. This will mark the transition to sustainable and truly civilized societies. Shall we join hands today to usher in a brighter future for all of humankind?

Irene Giner-Reichl is ambassador of Austria and Marija Adanja is ambassdor of Slovenia. Eighteen other female ambassadors and representatives accredited to China contributed to the article.

(China Daily 03/08/2013 page10)