28 February 2012Statement by Lynne Featherstone, UK Equalities Minister, to the 56th Session on the Commission for the Status of Women
"Madam Chair ,
The United Kingdom aligns itself with the statement delivered by Denmark on behalf of the European Union.
Firstly, let me congratulate you on your election as Chair of the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. I would also take this opportunity to thank Madame Bachelet for her work at the helm of UN Women. The establishment of UN Women was a landmark for the United Nations and my Government is a very strong supporter of UN Women and we are committed to working with you to support gender equality and women’s empowerment across the world.
We welcome this important dialogue focusing on the contribution of and challenges faced by women living in rural areas, including in the poorest countries.
Women are central to developing successful economies and stable societies. The empowerment of women, including through economic independence, is critical to the eradication of poverty. In more developed countries, by focusing on the needs and potential of women entrepreneurs we can maximise the contribution they make to national growth.
We have a number of measures underway in the United Kingdom, including in England making funding available to support women in rural areas to start up and stay in business; in Scotland as part of a wider rural programme working with women to increase their business skills; and in Northern Ireland Invest NI promotes female entrepreneurship and supports new and established women-owned businesses and women in management positions by providing information, encouragement, ideas and business connections through networking opportunities.
Agriculture is an important driver for national growth and international development, poverty reduction and food and nutrition security. Smarter investments in rural women, including poor smallholders, can significantly strengthen the impact of agriculture. This benefits the women themselves and their families and strengthens entire economies and societies.
The empowerment of rural girls and women is absolutely essential for global prosperity, achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals and ensuring safer and more stable societies. And that is why we have put girls and women at the heart of our development programme.
In addition to other goals, our international ‘We Will’ commitments include:
We know that supporting girls to delay their first pregnancy and enabling women to choose whether, when and how many children they have is critical for women and girls’ empowerment. A priority for the United Kingdom in 2012 is to support partner countries to achieve universal access to family planning in order to meet women’s needs, contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Goals and broader development.
Last year I was appointed as Ministerial Champion for tackling Violence against Women and Girls. Violence against women and girls is not only an abuse of human dignity; it negatively affects their ability to take full advantage of opportunities. Three elements are crucial to tackling violence against women and girls: leadership, leadership at national and international level in challenging social attitudes and strengthening legal frameworks; support for women’s participation as politicians and leaders and women’s movements; and promoting women’s rights, security and access to justice and I am pleased to see that it is the priority theme for next year’s meeting.
We must work together to ensure that rural girls and women globally can realise their rights and fulfil their potential. And we must continue to celebrate the great strides already taken by girls and women throughout the world. I look forward to paying special tribute to this on International Women’s Day on 8 March.
Thank you ."