UN general assembly head talks of challenges to women's empowerment -The Asian Age

Cosset Lazo Perez

Havana, Apr 6 (Prensa Latina) The president of the UN General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, said in Havana Saturday that although progress has been made on issues related to the empowerment of women worldwide, much remains to be done.

We have seen progress and achieved many spaces, otherwise perhaps I would not be here because I am only the fourth woman in 73 years of life of the United Nations (UN) to preside over its General Assembly, and the first in Latin America and the Caribbean, said the former Ecuadorian Foreign Minister in statements to Prensa Latina.In Espinosa's opinion, there has been notable progress in equality issues and in the political participation of women, as well as the efforts being made at the international level to combat gender-based violence.

This reality indicates progress, but we also have a lot to do. If we see for example that of the UN's 193 member states, only 20 have women Presidents or Heads of State, she said.The senior official argued that, in the case of the political participation of women in parliaments, 75 percent of legislators are men and only the rest are women (25 percent).

In Cuba there is total parity, even a little more since 53 percent of the National Assembly is made up of women, but this does not happen in most countries, she added.When talking about rights, she said there is still much to be done on this issue, especially in the one associated with the economy 'because the world average is not so encouraging because there is a wage gap between men and women of around 20 percent.

Women, with equal capacity and equal work, earn less only because of their womanhood. So much remains to be done for their economic empowerment, she emphasized.According to Espinosa, to combat violence, progress has been made with better normative and regulatory frameworks and laws, but painfully, these levels have increased.

The number of femicides, and women and girls affected by violence are one in three worldwide. So on this issue we have a lot to do, she insisted.What is needed basically is a cultural transformation of society. I believe that machismo and forms of discrimination must be strongly combated and that is part of a necessary social change, Espinosa reflected.

According to the senior official, there is an additional factor that we are seeing in some aspects and it is a sort of return to the past.In other words, we are losing space and there are certain actors in society who want to return to the 19th century or to Pre-Beijing, which was the last United Nations conference on women's rights.

The event, held in China in 1995, marked an important turning point for the global gender equality agenda and constitutes a program for the women's empowerment.We always have to be attentive to these issues and we count on Cuba to help us along with other countries to sign and strengthen the gender agenda.

Espinosa concludes an official visit to Cuba on Saturday, where she was welcomed by the host president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, and the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez.As part of her stay in Havana started last Wednesday, she gave a conference to students of the Higher Institute of International Relations, located in Havana.