Skip to main content

the role of women in fighting poverty

Lilianne Picard Hughes, Co-ordinator of the ICJW UNESCO Team, attended the Fourth International Forum of NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO in Paris.

ICJW’s  UNESCO  team has been part of the large audience, mostly feminine, which attended this important Forum held at  UNESCO  Headquarters in Paris on 29/30/June 2015.

Poverty is not only financial but also multidimensional and means social, economic and political exclusion.

According to United Nations reports, 70% of poor people of the world are women and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living in extreme poverty with less than a dollar per day are women.

The aim of the Forum was to show, by data and hard facts from different regions of the world, that not only women are both the first victims of poverty and the first ones to find survival strategies, thanks to their resilience and solidarity in the face of extreme situations, but also women can be the agents of change, insofar as the goal of the 2015 Development Agenda of UNESCO is to achieve a just inclusion and sustainable society where women are on equal footing with men.

The very intense program was split over two days: presentations by keynote speakers, thematic sessions as well as panels showcasing and debating NGOs’ best practices in fighting poverty.

Mr Eric Falt, UNESCO, Assistant Director General for External Relations and Public Information, and Ms Martine Levy, Chairperson of the NGOs Liaison Committee, made the opening. This was followed by a presentation of the Forum by the two coordinators of the Working Group, Ms Machon-Honoré (BPW International) and Ms Gries de la Barbelais (Soroptimist International).

The morning session ended with the projection of an extract of the movie “Women and Men” by Ms Frederique Bedos (author, producer and journalist), a lecture on the topic “Women, victims of poverty and agents of change” by Ms Gloria Ramirez (President of the International Association of Educators for Peace) and a lecture on “Priority gender Equality. Unesco’s Promise” by Ms Gulser Corat (Director of the Division for Gender Equality, Office of the Director General of UNESCO).

The very work of the Forum started after the lunch break on two thematic working sessions:

1. Girls’ education, a key factor in the fight against poverty, chaired by Ms Lisbeth Gouin (World Organisation for Early Childhood Education)

The keynote speakers spoke about the following subjects:
- The impact and prevention of early marriage by Ms Adenlke Adeyanju-Osadolor (Coordinator for Africa BPW International)
- Formal and informal lifelong learning and training by Ms France Marquet (Trustee of the South Asia Foundation)
- Partnership for girls and women’s empowerment through education: Unesco’s initiatives by Ms Maki Hayashikawa (Chief Section of Learning and Teachers, Gender Focal Point Education Sector, Unesco)
- The role of fathers in education by Ms Aliette de Maredsous (President, International Association of Charities)
- Access to scientific disciplines and promising channels by Ms Josette Rome-Chastenet (World Federation of Scientific Workers).

2. Women’s fight against violence, a key factor in the fight against poverty, chaired by Ms Brigitte Polonovski (International Council of Women)

The keynote speakers spoke about the following subjects:
- Women in war zones and refugee camps, victims and agents of peace by Ms Celine Cantat (World Organization for Early Childhood Education)
- Human trafficking and prostitution by Ms Claire Quidet (Mouvement du Nid).
The first day ended with a lecture by Mr Thierry Viard (ATD Fourth World) with the title “Making rights effective for people in extreme poverty”.
The topic of the second day was “Women’s Empowerment, a major asset in the fight against poverty.”

The first round table session on Women‘s Empowerment and Contribution to the Economic Field”, was moderated by Ms Amany Asfour (President, African Alliance for Women Empowerment), included the participation of:
- Ms Ann Garvis (President of Soroptimist International)
- Mr Jean-Marc Guesne (Bel Access Inclusive Business Manager, Founder of “Sharing Cities”)
- Ms Anne-Claire de Liederkerke(International President of Make Mothers Matter)
- Ms Jacqueline Obone-Mba (President of the Catholic Women Association of Gabon, World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations).
The morning ended with a lecture by Ms Yveline Nicolas (Coordinator of the association Adequations and member of the Genre en action Network) on “Women’s empowerment, a prerequisite for sustainable development”.

After the lunch break, the meeting resumed with the second Roundtable “Re-vitalizing the fight against poverty”, moderated by Ms Sepi Roshan (Journalist, Founder of Astute Radio), with the participation of:
- Ms Marie Baudry de Vaux (Institut de Recherche pour le Developement)
- Mr Agustin Brutus Jaykumar (International Network for Development and Peace)
- Ms Samia Gholzane (President of Cyberelles)
- Ms Venus Jennings (Programme Specialist, Section of Media Development and Society Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO)

The debate between the audience and the speakers was of very high quality. The conclusions of the Forum were drawn up by the coordinators and Mr Eric Falt and Ms Martine Levy.

The CVs of the speakers and the moderators were impressive and I had the pleasure to exchange some views about the role of women for peace with Mrs Amany Asfour, an Egyptian woman.

Last but not least, some NGOS had the opportunity to present field actions mostly in Africa.
Since Marni Besser’s report on trafficking did not focus on a specific action, I had decided to print and distribute the document. I am pleased to report that some participants congratulated me on ICJW’s activism on the matter. 

In conclusion, this Forum evidenced the fact that, despite all the efforts made by exceptional women and organizations worldwide, there is still a long way to go to achieve real equality between men and women and to eradicate poverty.