26 February 2008 (BWNS)
Equality between the sexes can have a real world economic effect, potentially improving the economic performance of nations and corporations.
That was among the ideas offered by noted economist Augusto Lopez-Claros, speaking yesterday at the United Nations on behalf of the Baha'i International Community.
Addressing the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women at a High-Level Roundtable on "Financing for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women," Dr. Lopez-Claros noted that a number of studies have shown a close connection between national economic performance and the degree to which women are integrated into a national economy.
"The efficient operation of our increasingly knowledge-based economy is not only a function of adequate levels of available finance, a reasonably open trade regime for goods and services, but, more and more, is also dependent on our ability to tap into a society's reservoir of talents and skills," said Dr. Lopez-Claros, director of the Global Competitiveness Report 2006/2007 at the World Economic Forum.
"When, because of tradition, a misunderstanding of the purpose of religion, social taboos or plain prejudices, half (the) ... population is prevented from making its contribution to the life of a nation, the economy will suffer."
Dr. Lopez-Claros was one of some 40 Baha'i delegates to the meeting of the commission, which runs this year from 25 February to 7 March.
Also addressing yesterday's High Level Roundtable was Fulya Vekiloglu, co-chair of the Working Group on Girls of the NGO Committee on UNICEF, who is also a representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.
She urged the commission to make a greater effort to promote social policies that protect, empower, and "invest in" girls at the national and local levels.
"Investments in girls have amazing cascading benefits," said Ms. Vekiloglu, speaking in her role as co-chair of the NGO Working Group on Girls. "When girls are healthy, well-educated and empowered to contribute to their families and societies, we all benefit."
She also urged the commission to promote policies that would help provide better data about women and girls.
"In too many places and at too many times, girls continue to be invisible, lumped together with women by some and with children by others," said Ms. Vekiloglu. "Gender equality and women's empowerment cannot be accomplished unless we adopt a life-cycle approach to this critical issue. Unless we ensure the visibility of girls, we can never guarantee women's rights."
Other members of the Baha'i delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women include Zarin Hainsworth, president of UNIFEM in her native Britain; Mehr Afhasi, who works with UNIFEM in Sweden; Shama Pande of Nepal, who works with USAID in the area of NGO funding; Forough Olinga of Uganda and Nalina Jiwnani of India, who represent the Baha'i offices for the advancement of women in their countries; and Sovaida Ma'ani Ewing, a lawyer whose most recent service was with the Legal Advisor's Office of the U.S. State Department and who is the author of "Collective Security Within Reach," published last month.
Other Baha'i delegates come from Australia, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Germany, Hawaii, Japan, Malawi, Puerto Rico, and Switzerland.
A statement by the Baha'i International Community - addressed to the current session of the Commission on the Status of Women - is titled "Mobilizing Institutional, Legal and Cultural Resources to Achieve Gender Equality." It can be found at: