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Women′s liberation from being second-class citizens has come a long way over the last century.
04 March, 2008

AMMAN - Women′s liberation from being second-class citizens has come a long way over the last century, but global gender equality has still not been reached, according to the UN, which is hosting a celebration of women in the capital today to highlight the issue .

The celebration, held under the patronage of HRH Princess Basma, is in observance of International Women′s Day (IWD), marked annually on March 8 .

This year′s focus on “Financing for Gender Equality” is designed to urge governments and organisations to allocate more resources for women′s empowerment as a priority for economic development .

This theme also tops the agenda of the 52nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which is currently under way and will conclude March 7 .

According to the commission, when women get opportunities for education, access to resources and a place at the political table, not only is the quality of their lives improved, but economies are strengthened .

International Women′s Day has been observed since in the early 1900s, a time of great expansion in the industrialised world mixed with unrest and critical debate amongst women, according to the IWD website .

In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights .

One hundred years later, there is much progress to boast about and much more left to do .

According to UN statistics, women contribute to two-thirds of the hours worked in the world, but -earn one-tenth of global income and own about 1 per cent of the world′s property .

Statistics have proven long ago that investing in women has a positive effect on reducing poverty and economic growth, on the flip side, gender inequalities have high economic cost to societies .

Countries that fail to eliminate gender disparities in education by 2015 - one of the key targets of the Millennium Development Goals - could lose between 0.1 and 0.3 percentage points of per capita growth rates, according to a UN Commission on the Status of Women statement .

The statement cited the example of the Asia-Pacific region which is losing $42 to $47 billion annually because of women′s limited access to employment opportunities, and another $16 to $30 billion annually as a result of gender gaps in education .

In Jordan, a study conducted through the National Centre for Human Resources Development revealed major gender disparities in workforce participation, with around one million males active in the workforce compared to 183,000 females .

The study, entitled “Labour Market Conditions in Jordan”, concluded that women, who are on average more educated than men, are not entering the workforce, which constitutes a waste of human capital and resources .

Despite the fact that gender equality makes good economic sense, adequate resources have not been allocated, according to the UN .

It is estimated that low-income countries would need up to $23.8 billion to achieve the Millennium Development Goal focused on promoting gender equality and empowering women by 201 5, which would translate to $7 to $13 per capita per year from 2006 to 2015 .

Gender equality

UN member states regard gender equality as an essential factor for the achievement of its priorities of peace and security, human rights and development, including the Millennium Development Goals .

* Investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth. Educated women have more economic opportunities and engage more fully in public life .

* Women who are educated tend to have fewer and healthier children, and those children are more likely to attend school. Education also increases the ability of women and girls to protect themselves against HIV .

* Women make long-ranging contributions to poverty eradication and development .

* According to World Bank estimates, an increase of one percentage point in the share of women with secondary education is associated with a 0.3 percentage point increase in per capita income .

* Educated, healthy women are more able to undertake productive activities and earn higher incomes. Investments in women, the primary caretakers of the future generation, provide returns for decades. Better educated women are able to benefit from new technologies and the opportunities presented by economic change .

* Increasing women′s access to land, credit and other resources increases their well-being, and that of their families and communities and reduces the risks of poverty .