Grybauskaite: By not allowing women to prosper, we condemn entire families to poverty

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė stressed the challenging role of women in fighting terrorism, climate change, and ending the world’s deadliest conflicts in the GA

Shown here is Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite addressing the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-first session at UN Headquarters in New York on September 22. The President firmly believes that today’s greatest challenges can only be resolved with the full participation of women. UN Photo/Cia Pak.
Shown here is Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite addressing the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-first session at UN Headquarters in New York on September 22. The President firmly believes that today’s greatest challenges can only be resolved with the full participation of women. UN Photo/Cia Pak.

In a strongly worded speech on September 22 during the UN general debate, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė stressed the important role that women play in fighting terrorism, ending the world’s deadliest conflicts and successfully implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

She said that special attention should be paid to women who were often left behind and ignored. This year’s general debate at the United Nations aimed to give a universal push to the Sustainable Development Agenda.

President Dalia Grybauskaitė also stated that while both women and men were affected by poverty, lifting women out of poverty was much more difficult. As she pointed out, women faced gender-based discrimination, stereotypes, and social marginalization.

According to a UN Women report, “a woman earns around 24 per cent less than a man, finds it more difficult to get a loan to start a business, and is likely to receive a smaller part of inheritance or nothing when she decides to leave her abusive husband.” The trend of poverty feminization has to change.

”By not allowing women to prosper, we condemn entire families to poverty”, Dalia Grybauskaitėt added.

When it comes to ending hunger, here’s what President Grybauskaitė had to say on the subject:

“Although around half of the world’s agricultural work is done by women, if food is running out, women are the first to suffer when public order breaks down, a woman’s trip to bring her family food or water, may easily cost her life.”

In addition, “in times of hunger, women give the little food they have to their children. In a bread line, however, they often end up being pushed aside or abused.”

From the President’s perspective, “empowering women by expanding land ownership or providing credit would not only feed a family, but would also raise incomes of women and make more food available for all.”

On the subject of providing education, the Lithuanian President said that for so many girls and women around the world, the road to inclusive learning remains an impossible dream. She added, “according: to the UN Sustainable Development report, out of the world’s 750 million illiterate adults, two thirds are women. Girls are sent off or sold into early marriages, blocking their path to education, higher income and independence. Criminals abduct women and sell them into slavery, and extremists burn down schools and kill teachers because they do not want educated girls to make their own life choices.”

Lithuanian President Grybauskaitė stated, that needs to change.

“Education is a key that opens many doors. Educated women are a tremendous resource and a power for the common good. Women must be free to have access to education, and choose the profession they want. Information technologies must be available to uncover their full potential.”

In conclusion, although the task ahead is immense, according to Dalia Grybauskaitė, “it can be achieved if each of us finds the strength and courage to become part of the changes by: encouraging women to dream big and demand their rightful place at national parliaments, negotiating tables, science labs and company boards: ensuring that nothing can stand in the way of a girl’s dream to receive free quality education; combating gender stereotypes and abusive social practices; making sure that laws give women and girls equal voice and power they deserve: and reducing the cost of violence against women so that billions more could be directed into poverty reduction and development.”

As stated by the Lithuanian president in the UN General Assembly Hall,

“We cannot afford to fail in this challenge. To achieve this, we need everyone on board. Only if all members of the society – both women and men – are fully represented and engaged, can the world’s future be truly sustainable.”

Ann Charles
Ann Charles is UN Bureau Chief of “Baltic Review” based in New York City. She covers diplomatic activities at United Nations Headquarters in New York and the world body’s work in human rights, education, culture, the environment, and tourism, among other global concerns.

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