The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, will co-host an event on women in leadership at the 66th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York in September 2011.
The UNGA Side Event on Women’s Political Participation will be a high-level dialogue to raise awareness on women’s participation in leadership roles.
Ms Persad-Bissessar said she intends to articulate the views of the Commonwealth on the important issue of women’s empowerment at the event.
The 2011 Commonwealth Day theme ‘Women as Agents of Change’ celebrates women whose work has made a positive difference to the lives of others, and emphasises the Commonwealth message that by investing in women and girls we can accelerate social, economic and political progress in our member states.
Launching the side event in Trinidad and Tobago, Ms Persad-Bissessar said: “Attitudes towards women as leaders must continue to evolve so that more trust is placed in women as quality contributors to legislation, governance and decision-making processes.
“We already have outstanding female leaders in our communities in all areas - in religion, in non-governmental organisations, in local government. We must now take our women to the next level to embrace national and regional political representation.”
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma will give a presentation on Commonwealth initiatives for women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming at the side event.
Commenting on its approach the Secretary-General said: “The Commonwealth believes in the potential of its women to bring about real change through developing their capacity to be change agents for development and democracy.”
Women leaders also co-hosting the UNGA side event include: the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff; the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton; former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current United Nations Development Programme Administrator, Helen Clark; and the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet.
The event is intended to attract women heads of state and government, as well as women foreign ministers and ministers with responsibility for gender affairs/gender equality, senior diplomats and members of civil society.
In addition, Ms Persad-Bissessar anticipates the support of women leaders from African, Arab and Asian countries, to complete the distinguished panel of global women world leaders.
“Our discourse in September would seek to create a framework for a vision of longevity for the participation of women in politics, nationally, regionally and globally,” she said.
“I ask for your input in designing sustainable programmes for educating and guiding our women on the many aspects of the political process.”
Ms Persad-Bissessar added that she expects that the outcome of the meeting would influence relevant UN resolutions on women’s participation in the political process at regional, hemispheric and global levels.
In June 2011 the first Caribbean Regional Colloquium on ‘Women Leaders as Agents of Change’ was hosted by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, the Commonwealth Secretariat, UN Women, the Organization of American States, and the Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership (CIWiL), in Trinidad and Tobago. It found that most Caribbean countries have fewer than 15 per cent women as elected representatives.
The colloquium’s consensus document recommended, among others, an increase in women’s representation in cabinet, parliament and local government to 30 per cent, and where that percentage had already been achieved to strive for parity or 50 per cent, to raise the number of women in political leadership acting as change agents.
Ms Persad-Bissessar will also speak at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting side event ‘Women Empowered to Lead’ in Perth, Australia, on 27 October 2011.