Madam Michelle Bachelet,
Presidents and Prime Ministers
Former Presidents and Prime Ministers
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Members of the media
I thank you Madam Chairperson, for your gracious words of introduction.
On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I wish to congratulate the Government and people of the Federative Republic of Brazil for the excellent arrangements and for the warm hospitality extended to us.
I am particularly grateful to Her Excellency Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, for convening this Women Leaders’ Forum on Sustainable Development. I extend to you my sincere congratulations for your leadership of UN Women; and for bringing greater international focus to gender issues and sustainable development, in particular those affecting women and girls. I also pay special tribute to those who worked assiduously to organize and coordinate the activities of this important Forum. UN Women has been determined to find creative and effective ways to represent and empower all the women and girls of the world.
Madam Chairperson, this Summit is designed to remind the people of the world that there is an essential link between sustainable development and many of the challenges faced by our many nations, including one which is particularly close to my heart – poverty eradication. There is also a direct correlation between the wide ranging issues of sustainable development and the global struggle for the empowerment of the women and girls.
In this audience there are many distinguished women leaders that are dedicated to this agenda. Your roles as representatives are testament to your dedication to the furtherance of the agenda of human development in general.
Our gender predisposes us to a sensitivity to the realities that are unique to women, in particular the poor and vulnerable women and girls. Among the women we represent are the mothers who have to carry buckets for miles on their heads in order to access and provide sometimes barely potable water for their children. They are the same ones who have no choice but to do their laundry in the rivers. Among the persons we represent are the girls who whose households lack even basic social infrastructure. The women we represent are the ones who face the high energy charges that affect them as they cook their meals, transport their families and advance their businesses and careers.
The issues of climate change, cultures of consumption and ecological sustainability that we will continue to discuss in this Summit are not obscure and unrelated to reality. We will have failed as leaders if, at the end of this Summit they are perceived as such. The things we will speak of over these few days represent the lives of real people and we must approach them with real passion.
Ours must be a rights-based approach grounded in the Millennium Development Goals and other UN conventions. We must begin to realistically shape global policy beyond just our words and transform them into action.
Our actions must be aimed at the reduction of poverty, moving people from welfare to well-being and from well-being to wealth creation, whilst advancing social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic justice. Our rights based approaches must pay specific attention to the marginalized and the most vulnerable in society – children, persons with disabilities, the elderly and our women.
They must also address those fundamental, yet sensitive human rights issues which affect the reproductive rights of our women as mothers and potential child-bearers, as well as partners. We must address them without the fear of controversy.
Far too many women and girls of our societies have not been empowered to escape:
· the impact of abject poverty,
· the degradation of our social and physical environment,
· the continuing dehumanizing forces of violence against women and girls,
· the effect of wars and civil unrest,
· the impact of the HIV pandemic
· and the lack of control over their reproductive rights and reproductive health.
An insidious growing threat to the welfare of our women, girls and boys is that of human trafficking. Our ancestors fought for freedoms. It is disgraceful that at this juncture in our history that we should see the emergence of a form of modern-day slavery which renders women, girls and boys to be traded as chattel.
The theme of this forum, The future women want, is, not only appropriate, but timely.
Women want what is best for their families. We seek the best possible opportunities for our personal growth and development, that of our communities; and ultimately our nations.
Gender inequity and inequality continue to prevail within our world. This, in itself, is a deterrent to sustainable development. It is important that women participate fully in decision making at all levels if sustainable development is to be achieved.
As female leaders we are acutely aware that considerations of and for issues concerning women and girls are often relegated to the periphery of negotiations and discussions, if included at all. I am firmly committed that when women lead we must do so with determination, with courage, with a focus on the greater good and with a sense of destiny and urgency.We must insist thatpragmatic gender considerations are includedin the deliberations on sustainable development strategies.
Madame Chairperson, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, there is a reason why our environment is accorded the name ‘Mother’. It is because of the provisions she has made for our development. We in turn have the responsibility to take care of her.
Ziggy Marley, the son of prolific Reggae artistethe late Bob Marley, tells us in song that even as the people of the world continue to disregard our Mother Nature, that:
She still wouldn’t hate none of her children,
No matter what cruel things they've done,
She`ll always be there when her babies crying,
She`s a mother, she`s a mother you can depend on,
Beautiful Mother Nature,
She`s hoping her children will love her again,
Like once she remembers,
Before skyscrapers and chemical plants
When she was all that we had,
Before they polluted her sacred land
I express my solidarity with all who are determined to ensure gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, in line with the Millennium Development Goals. I pledge my continued support and advocacy.
I thank you – God bless you.