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Press Release UN Women at start Rio+20: A world in balance requires gender equality, says UN Women

Michelle Bachelet outlines policy actions needed at Rio+20 Conference to bring transformational change.

14.06.2012 |Press Release UN Women

United Nations, New York, 14 June 2012 — Ahead of the UN Conference for Sustainable Development next week in Rio de Janeiro, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet has called upon world leaders for bold action and strong commitments to advance women’s equal rights, opportunity and participation. The Conference, also known as Rio+20, will bring together heads of state and government, and representatives of civil society and the private sector to build a road map for a sustainable future, aiming to reduce poverty and advance equality and environmental protection.

The Rio+20 Conference comes twenty years after the Rio Earth Summit, where there was unanimous agreement that sustainable development cannot be realized without gender equality. However, 20 years later, women and girls continue to face discrimination and violence and to call for equality and justice. Today women make up 43 per cent of the agricultural workforce in developing countries, yet they continue to be denied equal access to land, credit and other resources. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that providing women with the same access as men to fertilizers, seeds and tools, would raise national agricultural output by up to 4 per cent and reduce the number of hungry people by 100 to 150 million.

Advancing equal rights and opportunities is critical for a sustainable future. Addressing climate change and other challenges requires women’s full participation and the world’s collective wisdom and intelligence available today. Women are key actors for sustainable development, and sustainable development solutions can greatly improve women’s lives by reducing poverty, freeing up women’s time and protecting them from violence and other adverse health and environmental impacts. For example, of the 2 million people who die each year from smoke from traditional cook stoves, more than 85 per cent are women and children.

Outlining the need for the Rio+20 Outcome Document to guarantee women’s full participation in sustainable development, Ms. Bachelet reaffirmed the vital role women play as contributors as well as benefactors of sustainable development. “The world can no longer afford to leave women out. Sustainable development cannot happen without half of the world’s population,” she said. Women’s leadership and participation is an urgent necessity to achieve the transformational change needed for sustainable development.

UN Women’s key recommendations for Rio+20 include:
•    Fully integrate gender equality and the empowerment of women in any future international development framework, including through the adoption of a comprehensive development goal on gender equality and the inclusion of gender-sensitive targets and indicators in all other goals;
•    Take urgent measures, including temporary special measures, to accelerate women’s full participation in governance, and to ensure that all policies, laws, budgets and investments for sustainable development are gender-responsive and integrate the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development;
•    Eliminate discriminatory barriers faced by women, particularly marginalized women, and adopt concrete measures to address the factors that prevent women from accessing, owning and managing productive resources and assets, and from contributing to and benefiting from the opportunities provided in the green economy, including employment opportunities; and
•    Ensure the right to sexual and reproductive health as well as universal access to essential services such as safe drinking water and basic sanitation, energy, education, health, transportation, communication, security and social protection.

The call to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment are cornerstones of the Rio+20 Outcome Document and related sustainable development frameworks will he echoed at the high-profile Heads of State and Governments event hosted by UN Women on 21 June at the Rio Conference. At the Women Leaders’ Summit on the Future Women Want event, women Heads of State and Government will issue a Call to Action pledging their support and urging governments, civil society and the private sector to prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment in the sustainable development agenda and accelerate actions for its implementation.

In the lead up to the Conference, UN Women has provided technical inputs into the Rio+20 Outcome Document, bringing diverse grassroots voices into the discussions. This includes a survey by the Women’s Major Group, a civil society coalition, which was supported by UN Women and gathered the voices of women from around the world. Findings will be presented to world leaders next week at the Conference. UN Women is also supporting the participation of women advocates from around the world who will speak at the various panels at Rio+20, including the UN Women–sponsored The Future Women Want: Leaders’ Forum, organized in collaboration with the Government of Brazil and other partners on 19 June.

Next week at the Conference, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet will also engage with the private sector at various events, including a keynote speech at the Gender Equality for Sustainability event at the Corporate Sustainability Forum, organized by the UN Global Compact.

•    UN Women Press conference at Rio+20 Conference, with Michelle Bachelet and Gro Harlem Brundtland on Monday, 18 June, 10–10.30 a.m. Venue: Main Press briefing room, Media Centre, Pavilion 3.
•    UN Women–organized events on 19 and 21 June are open to accredited print and TV media. Seats are limited. To get details and attend the events, please RSVP media contacts below.
•    All UN Women events will be webcast live at
Media Contacts:
•    In New York: Oisika Chakrabarti, oisika.chakrabarti[at], +1 646 781-4522.
•    In Rio de Janeiro: Gisele Netto, gisele.netto[at], +55 61 8175 6315, +55 21 7817 1047.

More information:
•    UN Women:
•    UN Women and Rio+20:
•    Follow the events on Twitter: English (@UN_Women), Spanish and Portuguese (@ONUMujeres); hashtag #WomenRio.
UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. For more information, visit UN Women, 220 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017. Tel: +1 646 781-4400. Fax: +1 646 781-4444.

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