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U.N. Forum Marks Women's Day
'Men are needed to pursue gender equality': Johnson-Sirleaf
Lily Yulianti (myfawwaz)     Print Article 
Published 2006-03-09 14:20 (KST)   
U Thant International Conference Hall, at the U.N. House in Tokyo, was packed with hundreds of women on Wednesday afternoon (March 8) to commemorate International Women's Day in a half-day public forum entitled "Women in Decision-Making" (PDF).

It was a day to celebrate women's achievements and also to reconfirm our struggle to pursue better conditions for women in the world. There was message from the Secretary-General of the U.N. read by Hans van Ginkel, Rector of United Nations University, and video messages from Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia.

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Annan, Merkel, and Johnson-Sirleaf shared similar thoughts that women's empowerment is fundamental for peace and humanity. Just like men, women also need good economic, social, peaceful, secure conditions. Unfortunately, in unstable situations, due to conflict and war for example, women are far weaker and more vulnerable compared to men.

In the 2005 World Summit, said Annan, world leaders stated that the progress of women is progress for all. He emphasized that despite achievements up to now, the conditions of women in many parts of the world are still far from ideal. There is still a lack of equality in social life and in working and domestic spaces. The key to improve women's condition is to invite more of their participation in decision making at all levels.

Meanwhile, Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf, as a woman who was just elected as the head of a state, called for more men's involvement to pursue gender equality in all sectors. "To all of my brothers, men in Africa, men all over the world, I am standing here to say that women's struggle is not just women's duty. It is all our duty to reconstruct a fairer and better social construction for women."

The keynote presentation, delivered by Ginko Sato, the Honorary President of the Japan Association for the Advancement of Working Women and board director of Hitachi (the leading electronic company), discussed clearer problems faced by women in modern society. She said in Japan, 75 percent of women quit working after the birth of their first child because most companies still do not provide sufficient support for working mothers. This forces Japanese women to choose between their career and private lives.

Although the Japanese government has introduced maternity leave, Japanese society and private companies are still reluctant to adopt it. The latest statistics shows that 70 percent of women take maternity leave, but only 0.56 percent of men take such leave. This is in line with the fact that Japanese men only spend 30 minutes a day for domestic work in the house, compared to women who spend at least 15 hours a day.

Sato's illustration indeed reinforced the view that women empowerment and gender equality are still far from ideal, not only in Japan, but also in other parts of the world.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Lily Yulianti

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