Leaders pledge money, clout to achieve women's equality

Leaders pledge money, clout to achieve women's equality

Leaders pledge money, clout to achieve women's equality
World leaders pledged money and political clout to achieve equality for women by 2030 at a UN meeting co-chaired by China's President Xi Jinping, who has faced strong criticism for cracking down on women's rights activists.

Among the Chinese leader's strongest critics was Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who tweeted: "Xi hosting a meeting on women's rights at the UN while persecuting feminists? Shameless."

Leaders from about 80 countries and dozens of diplomats attended the meeting yesterday to mark the 20th anniversary of the UN women's conference in Beijing and press for implementation of its 150-page action plan for gender equality which remains one of the 17 new development goals adopted by world leaders on Friday.

As US first lady, Clinton galvanised the 1995 Beijing conference with a rousing speech that included words that have become a mantra for the global women's movement: "human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights." Xi partly echoed her words, telling yesterday's meeting that "women's rights and interests are basic human rights. They must be protected by laws and regulations."

Xi did draw loud applause when he announced a USD 10 million donation to UN Women, the agency promoting women's rights, to accelerate implementation of the Beijing platform and again when he announced that in the next five years China will help developing countries produce 100 "health projects" for women and children, finance 100 programs to send poor girls to school, train 30,000 women from developing countries in China, and provide training opportunities for 100,000 women in other developing countries.

Switzerland President Simonetta Sommaruga said it will increase its contribution to almost USD 50 million for the 2015 to 2017 period, but most other commitments from more than 45 countries were in promised actions rather than money.

Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah pledged to "spare no effort" to implement a law ending violence against women. Austrian President Heinz Fischer made a commitment "to further tackling gender stereotyping."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her government will launch an initiative to improve the professional qualifications of women in developing countries and promote "the entrepreneurial power of women."

Mozambique's President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi committed "to combatting harmful gender practices that violate human rights since as early marriage, sexual abuse and trafficking of children."

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the meeting that "for women and girls throughout the world, my election is commitment to women's equality." But she said much more remains to be done including ensuring that a bill to prevent domestic violence is passed by the legislature.
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