No economic growth without women’s rights, UN says

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The world is beginning to
understand that integrating women and girls into the life of a
nation is the surest path to economic growth and development, a
top U.N. official told an annual meeting that analyzes the
global status of women.

Louise Frechette, the deputy secretary-general, spoke on
Monday at the opening of the Commission on the Status of Women,
which coincided with an exhibit honoring 1,000 women activists
from around the world, who have been nominated for the Nobel
Peace Prize.

“The world is starting to grasp that there is no tool for
development more effective than the empowerment of women and
girls,” Frechette said.

“Study after study has taught us that no policy is as
likely to raise economic productivity or to reduce infant and
maternal mortality,” Frechette told the gathering, expected to
be attended by some 1,000 activists and government officials.

In a building across the street from the United Nations,
the pictures and biographies of 1,000 women activists from
around the globe fluttered from strips of rope.

The names of the 1,000 women were gathered over two years
by Swiss parliamentarian Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, who proposed
last year that a Nobel Prize should be bestowed upon women
contributing to world peace. Only a dozen women have been given
the peace prize in Nobel’s 100-year history.

“Young women today desperately need role models,” said Cora
Weiss, president of the Hague Appeal for Peace, who organized
the event, which included Nane Annan, the lawyer-artist wife of
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

“These are women from 150 countries who represent all kinds
of disciplines: environmentalists, social workers, nurses,
grass roots organizers.”

Among the women activists honored were Devaki Jain, an
Indian economist and social worker; Noleen Heyzer of Singapore,
executive director of the U.N. Development Fund for Women; Mama
Loite Doumbia of Mali, a human rights campaigner and trade
union leader; and Bogaletch Gebre of Ethiopia, a scientist who
set up a center on women’s livelihood, education and health and
the dangers of female circumcision.

Also honored were Americans Betty Reardon, founder of the
Peace Education Center at Columbia University; and Chris
Norwood, who organizes low-income people in the south Bronx to
train their neighbors in health education.