Status of Women


Die Vizepräsidentin ERIKA SCHUCHARDT


Statement by the Federal Republic of Germany on the
'Status of Women'
at the 26th General Conference of UNESCO October 16th - 17th in Paris, Commission I
presented by Professor Dr. Erika Schuchardt
First Vice-president of the German UNESCO Commission

Madame Chairperson:

On behalf of the Delegation of the Federal Republic of Germany I congratulate you on your election and wish you much success in performing the functions of your offices.
First of all I would like to express my satisfaction about the fact that at this meeting we, as the German Delegation, for the first time can take part as one group in this General Conference; delegates for the new Federal States in what used to be the GDR as well as for the States of the old FRG.

We are especially pleased that right at the beginning of our deliberations the topic of Women has been taken up. We remember the words that our Director-General found to introduce the Mayor Programme XIV 'Status of Women' in 1983:

'One of the outstanding events of the twentieth century, which may be considered a real turning-point in history, is undoubtedly the change - in all countries, without exception - either in the way women live or in the statements made about them and in the action taken concerning them'.

It is our task now to use this opportunity and to fulfill this historic mission.

The United Nations and the UNESCO are the pace-makers. The brilliant analysis developed in the introductory speech I have just quoted offered quidelines for this task. I would like to use this opportunity to thank our predecessors - or better our women pioneers - some of whom I hope are here today with us in this hall. Long before today they got things on the move. One thinks of the work of the Committee for 'Women's Rights' founded 1946 by the UN and of the cornerstone of the 'Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination'. Using conventions, documents, the International Year of Women, the World-Decade for Women and other International Women's Conferences they have moved this issue forward to the UNESCO Mayor Programme XIV in the 2nd MTP 1983 and to the present Transversal Theme in the 3 nd MTP of UNESCO, 1989.

It is their achievement, then, to have turned 'Women' into a theme! Moreover the discussion no longer proceeds in isolated groups, but is fully integrated into all areas of UNESCO work as a Transversal Theme.

It is a concept the German Delegation agrees with - but is it more than a concept?

Today, after 46 years, we have to answer the folowing questions:

Did we get something going?

In the industrialized countries? In the developing countries?

Has the situation of women in the world been improved? Has there been a change in UNESCO itself, an improvement in its procedures? Do more women participate as delegates? Has there been a substantive change in the programmes?

Each one of us should ask herself or himself these questions!

Certainly we can be happy about the improvements to our programme (Programme II. 1, MPA II, MPA IV, Subprogramme VII. 2. 2), although in some areas there does seem to be scope for further progress (Programme I. 2, I. 3, MPA III, V and VI). If I take a general view from the perspective of the Federal Republic of Germany, there is still a remarkable discrepancy between the words in many documents and what has been achieved so far:

For example, looking at the traditional political parties, it is apparent that the percentage of female members of parliament in the last German Bundestag (Lower House of Parliament) was not higher than it had been in 1919 in the old German Reichstag. But there is hope: since the first election in our unified Germany 1990 the percentage of women in our parliament has been significantly higher (more than 20%).

Interestingly, female participation in the German UNESCO-Commission during this past decade (1980 - 1991) has not shown any substantial increase. There is, however, a ray of hope: the last General Assembly three months ago managed to elect female delegates (nearly 17%).

An exception, or pace-maker again, fortunately seems to be the UNESCO-Secretariat. The Director-General reports 'UNESCO Contribution to Improving the Status of Women' (26 C/15, 13th September, 1991) that he has set up an 'Ad-hoc-Working- Group on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men' and has been able to increase the percentage of women to 26,6%. He admits in all honesty that although 'From the legal point of view, the last obstacles to women's participation in public life have disappeared ... None the less, they still experience difficulties, particularly of a psychological nature, and the political centre stage continues to be occupied nearly always by men (I, 4, 14).

Looking at the situation the UN-Commission on the Status of Women reports in 1991 that in '1990 the Commission on the Status of Women stated the progress concerning the situation of women was still far too slow and that there was even regress in many areas. This statement my apply today even more than it did last year. As a consequence, we (the UN) must endeavour both at the national and at the international levels to improve the situation of women and implement equal rights'.

Inspired by this trenchant observation, the German and Austrian Delegations have prepare the draft of a resolution. We would like to focus on the strengthening of the tools UNESCO has at its disposal to implement our policy of equality and on the creation of appropriate network. This network would be structured in such a way as to allow discussion, action and planning on an international scale. The network would consist of the folowing elements:

1. All member-states would authorize representatives for the implementation of the policy of equality in the commissions or in comparable institutions. These representatives would then become the guardians to maintain the integrity of the network.

2. The Coordinator in the 'Co-ordinating Unit' (FEM) in Paris should to be a part of planning and development in all matters of finance and budget at an early stage. This is imperative in regard to the preparation of the Fourth World Conference of Women 1995. It remains at present unclear whether the coordinator would have a right of veto in the long run - maybe in the 4th MTP.

3. The reporting-system in UNESCO with regard to the improvement of equality for women must be improved so that member-states are encouraged to improve their policies regarding equality. Supplementary to this development we would want to see an evaluation of all programmatic activities which relate to women by the Director-General and a report on this at the 27th General Conference. It would also be helpful, if a summary were made on all the various activities in Programme 26C/5 relating to women in the resolutions and subprogrammes. This summary should be clearly visible in the appropriate chapters (26C/5, II.B Transverse Themes and Programmes, Chapter I: Women) rather than appearing as a list in paragraph 11 104.

In these reflections on the UNESCO-policy of equality one theme above all others demand the greatest care and it is especially close to my heart.

May I invite the Director-General to look back for a moment? Am I right in assuming that our main concern has been the task of upgrading the rights of women, strengthening the position - or to overstate it a little - focusing on helping those who we believe to deficient to achive equality. If so, we feel that the time has come - and we invite you to share this thought with regard to the 4th MTP - to include both sexes, i. e. in inviting the men to participate more actively in the discussions. If the policy is to be successful it can not flourish as a one-sided process, only as a reciprocal process has in future. Remember the introductory speech for the Mayor Programme XIV, 1983:

'Nor will history be able to forget that in the twentieth century the human species be to examine itself in terms of its two components, women and men, in order to improve both its knowledge of their biological and cultural nature and its understanding of the participation in social organisation, and also to proclaim equality of rights, responsibilities and capacities for both sexes.'

Apart from the speeches there have been numerous international activities which point this direction. Based on the UN-Charta, which includes 'equal rights of men and women' and the UN-Decade for Women 1975 - 1985 with its theme 'Equality, Development and Peace', this complex of ideas has found expression in the 'Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women' and led to the 1985 'Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies' with their demands: 'Secure equality in all areas of life', a call which will be a focus of discussion again - we are told - at the 4th World-Conference 1995. Finally, our Director-General has emphazised the concept of equality in the titles of the first two parts of his report, published on September 13 th , 1991.

In all these documents and activities the term equality is stressed, which - you may remember - we understand as a reciprocal process. What matters most is to recognize and acknowledge 'abilities', that are distinctive to men and women, indeed complementary to each other, rather than focussing on so called 'deficits'. For example, it could be argued that the ability for compassion so often found in women is a force that may be employed to help correct the dominant inhumanity of our societies. Such compassion or sensitivity would then become a component of executive functions. The other way round: it is our task to liberate men from their traditional roles of dominance and to help them to develop qualities such as openness and bear-acceptance of limitations. From these developments a new humanity, a new possibility of partnership can grow. Partnership can then be seen as mutual learning. This experience of mutual learning can dismantle one-sided structures of power and domination and lead to the establishment of a new solidarity.

If we are serious in our intention to further the development of women's progress, we have to express this decision in our programme. To put it in a nutshell, we would like to invite the Director-General

- to refer to the 'according of equal status' rather than to 'advancement for women';

- to reflect for the Fourth MTP whether the 'Transversal Theme Women' could not be more appropriately changed to 'Transversal Theme Equality between Men and Women';

- similarly the 'Co-ordinating Unit' in Paris would have to be called 'Co-ordinating Unit for Activities Relating to Improvement of Equality between Men and Women'.

Such a change would stress the dignity of women and men more significantly.

Having outlined now our thoughts and options I would like to ask you to support the resolution, which the German and Austrian Delegations have jointly brought in and which has already been discussed in many other member-states as well.

I want to thank you for your attention!

Erika Schuchardt