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27 February 2012 - General Assembly - Openning of the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women - Statement by Mrs Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, Minister for Solidarity and Social Cohesion

( Unofficial translation)

Madam Chairperson,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

France fully endorses the statement issued by Denmark on behalf of the EU.

You’ve chosen to focus on 3 topics:

1. “Rural women,” first of all: this is a key issue, since women living in rural areas now represent a quarter of the world’s population.

Women represent 43% of the world’s agricultural workforce, and 60% of the agricultural workforce in sub-Saharan Africa.

And yet, everywhere in the world, the contribution of women to economic life and the well-being of families goes unrecognized and, more generally, their rights are denied.

The figures bear witness to this terrible reality: women only own 2% of land and make up the majority of the world’s poor.

Given these observations, I want to reaffirm France’s attachment to the universality of all human rights, leading us to reject, in the strongest possible terms, all forms of cultural relativism;

It’s this same commitment that prompts us to advocate for the effective implementation of all women’s rights, including with respect to sexual and reproductive health.

Indeed, the control of their fertility is a fundamental right for all women.

I also want to reaffirm France’s attachment to the outcome of the Cairo Conference (1994) and the Beijing Platform for Action for women (1995), as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979).

Our action in support of rural women falls within the framework of Article 14 of this Convention. The goal is to ensure their equal access to healthcare, social protection, training, and credit and to encourage their participation in rural development.

At the international level, more than half of those who benefit from our international assistance programs are women living in rural areas.

At the national level, legislation has made it possible to improve their access to social protection.

We are developing female entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector by allowing women to have access to bank loans thanks to our Women’s Guarantee Fund.

At the local level we’re creating networks of women living in rural areas, and informing them of their rights.

2. Helping rural women therefore, but also promoting equality between women and men, through innovative public policies.

I believe that we have to take action very early on, starting at school, and we must take action with regard to the general public in order to change attitudes by fighting against gender stereotypes.

Here again, France is involved, through the work of the Commission, in the portrayal of women in the media.

More generally, we have also strengthened our response to violence against women.

The 2011-2013 Interministerial Plan that I’m leading provides for measures against all forms of violence to women.

Lastly, we are also taking action in the workplace: a penalty of up to 1% of the wage bill is envisaged for companies that do not observe professional equality. This is a unique mechanism in Europe.

And the government has decided to launch a development plan to support childcare in order to promote a better work-life balance.

*

Madam Chairperson, in conclusion, I would say that the development of the UN framework since the Beijing Conference of 1995 has generated trust and enthusiasm among the NGOs. I would like to mention, as an example, the actions of the CEDAW Committee, the 30th anniversary of which we will celebrate this year.

Of course over the last 20 years this journey has also been marked by tragedies, disappointments and spectacular setbacks.

But it doesn’t matter to women in 2012 whether they came into the world during a political cycle that was good or bad for their rights. These rights are universal, they should also be timeless!

That’s why France will not allow certain achievements to be challenged or certain laws that protect women to become the subject of diplomatic maneuvers.

France will convey this message on the equality of persons and the progress achieved in women’s issues within the framework of the International Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as “Rio+20,” in order to ensure that women’s rights are at the heart of the final declaration.

*

As it does every year, France will actively participate in the work of the Commission.

Women in conflict and, more generally, women suffering all over the world must mobilize the international community. I’m thinking today in particular of the women in Syria. But we shouldn’t just see them as victims; they are forces and vectors of peace in their country. That’s why they must be involved in the peace process and democratic transitions whenever possible.



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