Launch of UN-women SABAYA evaluation report

08 Mar 2011

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, A particular greeting to the Gaza women that are joining us via video link.

It is almost 100 years ago today that International Women’s Day was marked the first time. Actually it was 19 March, not 8, and it was called International Working Women’s Day. I don’t know why they changed it, because even at the dawn of the 21st century women in the world are doing 2/3 of all work, but receive only 10% of all pay. One of the reasons is that a lot of the work that women do is not paid at all. But there are many other inequities too. For example that the most underreported of all crimes is domestic violence, almost all of it against women. And although I am still talking about the global situation, we have to admit violence against women also exists here as it does everywhere else.

And that is why I am excited to be invited to moderate this morning’s event that both serves to present the report and celebrate International Women’s Day. It is also great to be back in Grand Park Hotel here in Ramallah where I stayed for weeks in 1998 while assisting the Palestinian Authorities preparing for Palestine electricity utilities in the West Bank.

Today, I am the UNDP’s Administrator’s Special Representative to the Palestinian People. We are partners with UN WOMEN on this undertaking. As many of you are aware, UNDP is a leading advocate for human development. It is about expanding people’s choices. That is not to say that everyone should make the same choices. But for choices to be real, people need access to education and health, and to be empowered to choose.

A lot has been achieved. Since 1997, female illiteracy has fallen from 20% to 8%. Already the high school drop out rate of girls is smaller than the one of boys. Nevertheless, a lot more progress is needed. Let me mention one key fact:

Less than one Palestinian woman out of 6 participates in the labour force against 2 out of 3 men. This is not only negative from a gender equality perspective but is bad for the Palestinian economic development, too.

Sustainable development can be achieved if there is equality for women. Women can only realize their true potential, if they have access to education, and are empowered to have equal opportunities to pursue their potential and play a full role in their community.

Digging a bit into Palestinian history, there is no lack of presence of talented and prominent women. One example is Issam Abdul-Hadi. She was born in Nablus in 1928, and was an active proponent of women’s rights and the Palestinian cause. Abdul-Hadi has been active in the Palestinian women’s movement since 1949, and headed the Palestinian delegation to the first UN International Women’s Conference in Mexico in 1975. And from more recent history, there are many more prominent examples.

1/3 of the 13th Palestinian government was composed of women. Let us trust that this steadfast progress continues in the 14th one, the first female governor has been appointed, and that is actually the Governor for Ramallah, Dr. Laila Ghannam. Another reason why the location today symbolises much.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme of Equal access to education, training and science and technology is particularly relevant to the occupied Palestinian territory. Insecurity and movement restrictions, continue to pose serious challenges to women’s and girls’ access to education, training and even recreational activities.

The SABAYA Programme we are discussing today is a result of a fruitful partnership between UNWomen and UNDP. Centres built through various UNDP infrastructure programmes were activated as a hub for activities, resources and services for rural women.

The SABAYA Programme, since it was initiated in 2004, has benefited over 25,000 women in 18 rural communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The UN Secretary General, in his message to mark the day said that “only through women’s full and equal participation in all areas of public and private life can we hope to achieve the sustainable, peaceful and just society promised in the United Nations Charter.”

Today, this programme has become a model of community level initiatives for advancing women’s rights and eliminating gender inequality.

On this note, I would like to congratulate UN-Women and the SABAYA coordinators for their impressive achievements and reaffirm UNDP’s commitment in advancing the cause of gender equality in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Thank you