Statement by the Representative of Cyprus
to the 2nd Committee Ms. Salina Shambos
on Agenda Item 99(c)
Sustainable Development and International
Economic Cooperation: Women in Development
October 29, 1999
Although my delegation has aligned itself with the statement of the Representative of Finland on behalf of the European Union, I would like to make a few remarks on subitem 99(c) concerning Women in Development since we consider it to be of particular importance. Hence, I shall briefly delineate the main efforts of my country in relation to this issue.
Firstly, my delegation would like to express its deep appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations to establish a gender-sensitive perspective within all areas of work of the Organization. We welcome the various reports of the Secretary-General on womens issues, specifically issues of WID and GAD, and in particular the latest World Survey on the Role of Women in Development. We express our appreciation for the valuable work performed by the bodies dealing with womens issues in the United Nations system, as well as the important contribution of civil society and NGOs in this respect. We also underline our support for INSTRAW and the new initiative it has undertaken, entitled Strategic Plan and Work Programme 2000-2003.
Following the dramatic events twenty-five years ago with the foreign invasion of Cyprus, subsequent military occupation and uprooting of one third of the Cypriot population, an event that has had a devastating impact on the women of Cyprus, my government has increasingly relied on integrating women into the efforts of economic revival of the country. Their contribution in the economic recovery and further development of Cyprus has been invaluable.
More specifically, the role and stature of Cypriot women in socio-economic life has improved significantly, in the last twenty years. Apart from the gradually changing social perceptions, this has been achieved mainly through their increased participation in economic activity as a result of high rates of economic growth and low unemployment rate, the expansion and updating of family and labour law, the increased public awareness of womens specific problems and the governments policy for the promotion of equality in all aspects of life, declared explicitly in all national development plans since 1979.
The gradual increase of public awareness on womens issues in Cyprus, that coincided with the UN Decade for Women, initiated the study, at the political level, of the particular problems of women, their position in the workplace, their social status and their specific difficulties. In 1994, by a decision of the Council of Ministers, the National Machinery for the Rights of Women was established, as the result of extensive consultations with interested womens organizations. This contributed effectively to the promotion of womens rights. The Council of Womens Rights, which is part of the National Machinery for the Rights of Women, is an advisory body which examines policy issues and programmes, submits proposals and suggestions on legislative and other measures to promote equal representation, follows up the implementation of Government policy, programmes and legislation on womens issues, and designs information, projects for the general public on the issues of equality between men and women.
The constantly growing contribution of Cypriot women in the overall development of my country is reflected in the following data: Their share in the total labour force rose from 30% in 1976, to 37% in 1985 and 39% today. It is estimated that currently, 57% of all women aged 15-64 years are integrated in the labour force. Approximately 30% of employed women have received higher education and about 42% have completed secondary education, as compared to 21% and 46% respectively for men. Womens representation in high administrative and managerial positions is about 12%, whereas their share in the professional occupations is as high as 46%.
The National Machinery for Womens Rights together with womens NGOs, is currently organizing a four-day workshop in order to help women develop communication and leadership skills when participating in campaigning and decision-making at all levels of the political life of the country. In fact, a coordinated effort is under way to increase womens participation and achieve a 30% representation by the year 2005, in line with the goals set by the United Nations.
Recent government policy for the improvement of the position of women in development is pursued firstly through the overall economic development policy, which aims at maintaining conditions of full employment and fully utilizing human resources; and secondly, through special measures aiming at facilitating entering the labour force and retaining of employment by women, on the principle of equality.
The Strategic Development Plan covering the period 1999-2003 postulates its major goals and targets, regarding WID as: the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women in the labour market, the further improvement of supportive infrastructure provided to working parents and the alleviation of the particular problems faced by rural women, by promoting their roles in the agricultural households and in farming and by encouraging them to deal with income generating activities through the House Economic Programme.
Moreover, legislation is currently being drafted, covering a variety of issues such as those related to equal treatment in the workplace, income equality, legal and social insurance benefits, protection of the rights of pregnant working-women, and the legal right of maternity leave.
These measures are constructive steps toward solidifying gender equality in all walks of life, by mainstreaming womens issues in the government development-policies and plans of action. Hence, the Government of Cyprus is strongly committed to pursuing all policies which ensure that women fully enjoy their human rights and are equal partners in shaping the economic, political and social development of the country. This commitment stems from the belief that bringing about gender equality is a necessity dictated by the long-term requirements of the economic and social development of the country.
Concluding, I would like to draw the Committees attention to two general observations from the global perspective:
1. That the role of women on the social, economic, political and cultural bedrock of any society is of fundamental importance. Women, as bearers of the future generations and as active members of the labour force, are poles of stability, social structure and development.
2. That the achievement of gender equality has a long way to go, despite the considerable efforts exerted and the progress registered, and remains a serious challenge in all societies.
It is imperative that we strengthen our efforts, both at the national and international level, if women are to find themselves in the 21st century, not several steps behind men, as is the case today, but next to them in real partnership, both sharing the fruits of development in the family, in the workplace, in the political and economic spheres, in all sectors and at all levels.
This is not a matter of social justice, and it is surely not a matter of competition. It simply is a matter of mutual respect and cooperation between the genders, in the name of the collective development of society and the selective development of Homo Sapiens.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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