Towards a Planet of Gender Equality
China Today by ZHOU LIN, December 3, 2015 Adjust font size:
Gender equality is a global issue to which the international community is unreservedly committed.
The sound on September 14, 1995, of Chen Muhua, president of the Fourth World Conference on Women, striking her gavel on the podium formally signified adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Beijing Platform for Action, a main milestone in the international women’s movement.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of that day. On October 14, more than 100 woman leaders, scholars, and representatives from 30-plus nations and international organizations converged in Beijing to participate in the International Forum on Women. Themed “Women’s Future Development,” the event was jointly sponsored by the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation and United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Participants called for the empowerment of women, protection of women’s rights, and promotion of women’s comprehensive development, thus to create a women-friendly environment and realize gender equality throughout the planet.
China’s Gender Equality Endeavors
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment on September 27 titled “Promote Women’s All-Round Development and Jointly Construct and Share a Wonderful World.” He stated, “Women are the creators of the material and spiritual civilization, and an important force in promoting social development and progress. Without women, no human being could exist, let alone society as a whole.”
China is indeed committed to the constitutional principle of gender equality as a fundamental state policy to promote social development. Vice President of the All-China Women’s Federation Meng Xiaosi observed in her report that over the past 20 years tremendous achievements have been made in the progress of Chinese women, including a sharp drop in numbers of impoverished women, and a continuously improving career structure. The proportion of women employed in the secondary and tertiary industries has steadily expanded, as has that of medium- and high-level women professionals. Of Internet entrepreneurs, 55 percent are women, and the disparity between educated men and women is narrowing. The life expectancy of women now surpasses 77.4 years.
The past two decades have also witnessed eradication of illiteracy in 70 million women. More than 51 percent of higher education students are girls. Women also play a greater role in political decision-making. A more advantageous environment for women’s further development has thus gradually formed.
“Contemporary China has become a world force to be reckoned with, and so provides women with a wider platform on which to display their talent and potential. The traditional spirit of Chinese women now displays new characteristics in the new era,” Huang Huilin, dean of the Academy for International Communication of Chinese Culture, Beijing Normal University, said in her speech. She observed the broader scope and greater depth of Chinese women’s participation in national affairs management, an increasing number of outstanding women in economics and cultural circles, and also that this trend is growing in other fields.
Helga Zepp-LaRouche, founder of the Schiller Institute, expressed her admiration for the speech Mme. Peng Liyuan made on September 26 at the UN, “Ms. Peng believes that every girl has the right to education, from which she has herself benefited. She also said that equal opportunities in education would have huge impact on the whole nation. Her Chinese Dream is for all children, girls in particular, to have access to an equal education.”
Engine of Global Economic Growth
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moo once said, “We cannot fulfill 100 percent of the world’s potential by excluding 50 percent of the world’s people.”
The past 20 years have seen great progress in women’s empowerment and equality in all nations. Results of a UN survey show that gender equality enhances the life quality of women and girls and is at the same time beneficial to the development of family, community, and nation. Accomplishment of women’s equality will enable more children to go to school and bolster cultural diversity; equal employment opportunities for women can add a new engine of global economic growth.
“New technology constantly redefines how the world is ruled. Electronic commerce is a vital opportunity for women’s empowerment because it gives full play to their creativity. Alibaba is China’s biggest electronic group. Among its online retailers, almost half are women. Consumer comments come mostly from women, who also account for 50 percent or more of total online purchasers,” Julia Broussard, country programme manager of the UN Women China Office, said. “Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba Group, once joked that women are the secret weapon behind the corporation’s speedy development.”
President of the Korean Women’s Development Institute Lee Myung-sun said, “Countries that maintain a high employment rate of women, such as Norway, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, all enjoy a high per capita GDP. Female managers have proactive influence on the overall operation of companies.” A survey of 170 Korean corporations between 2009 and 2013 showed that those that had more senior female executives also had a greater success rate, manifest in higher profits and turnover.
Jiang Yongping, professor of the Women Studies Institute of China, has headed three surveys on Chinese women’s social status. The results of all three showed that high-quality sustainable development actually depends on women’s participation and contributions. Her advice is to promote the quality of women’s employment to ensure that they achieve self-development through participation.