We have to find ways to close gender inequality

The UAE's ratio of girls to boys in education ranks among the best internationally. Sarah Dea / The National
The UAE's ratio of girls to boys in education ranks among the best internationally. Sarah Dea / The National

Investing in women’s economic participation is a direct way to gender equality, poverty reduction and inclusive economic growth.

Women constitute more than half of the world’s population and are consumers, employees and entrepreneurs who deliver a large amount of unpaid work inside and outside their homes. At the same time, girls and women constitute the majority of the world’s poor, earn far less than men, work longer and are often much worse off when it comes to access to land, natural resources, education and health.

More than 200 years ago, in 1814, all Danish children were given the right to free education. Last year, Denmark celebrated the 100th anniversary of the right of Danish women to vote in parliamentary elections. The latter was the culmination of a long struggle for women to have a formal voice in society equal to that of men.

Step by step, opportunities have increased. In 1976, equal pay for equal work became a requirement by law and, in 2011, Denmark elected its first female prime minister. But Denmark still faces challenges.

A pay gap exists between men and women, females are disproportionally exposed to partner ­violence, and the existence of gender stereotypes occasionally creates a barrier to gender equality. The struggle to eliminate these patterns must and will continue.

The UAE and Denmark are countries where the ratio of girls to boys in education ranks among the best internationally. The recent UAE cabinet shake-up bringing eight women to the government, including the new Minister of State for Youth Affairs – 22-year-old Shamma Al Mazrui – is the embodiment of the UAE’s strong position in the global aim of empowering and investing in women. These appointments, together with other strong women (such as Sheikha Fatima), act as powerful examples for future generations to come.

As a woman and a mother, as the ambassador of Denmark to the UAE and as a world citizen, these initiatives make me happy. We must encourage a sustainable future by investing in girls and women to everybody’s gain.

Denmark is a country where gender equality ranks high on the agenda and it is a core element in our international work. We are firmly committed to pushing for sustainable societies with growth in which everybody will have the opportunity to determine their own destinies, make their own choices and live the life they want.

Next month, Denmark will host a large conference on health, rights and well-being of girls and women. More than 5,000 people – world leaders, royalty, academics, policymakers, activists, media, civil society and private sector representatives – will gather in Copenhagen.

The Women Deliver conference is an opportunity for a wide range of people to exchange ideas and solutions and develop partnerships that will deliver for the young girl who desperately wants an education, for the millions of women still without access to family planning and proper health care, and for the woman who wants to own the land she is farming.

Today, women in the UAE comprise 70 per cent of college graduates and 95 per cent of Emirati women continue to higher education upon completion of secondary school. The Women Deliver event in Copenhagen and other events worldwide will raise the voice for a commitment to generate political and financial investments in fulfilling the aim of reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health. Action is truly what echoes.

A woman multiplies the effect of an investment made in her future by extending benefits to the world around her, creating a better life for her family and building stronger communities. We have to lead the way by providing equal rights, access to education and opportunities to better health and well-being, creating welfare beyond a single individual. Together, as role models for our neighbours, we have to call for action. And we have to fulfil the obligation of investing in our world by investing in our women.

Merete Juhl is ambassador of Denmark to the UAE

Published: April 26, 2016 04:00 AM


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