Message of Michelle Bachelet, UN Women Executive Director at the International Forum on Women in Science and Technology in Muslim Countries in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 20 September 2011.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to address you at the International Forum on Women in Science and Technology in Muslim Countries. Your Forum has a similar theme to this year’s International Women’s Day and the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. This year we were challenged to think critically about women and girls’ access to education, training, science and technology.
We know that gender equality and the empowerment of women can only become a reality if we put the necessary resources into education and training for women and girls. While women have joined the labour force in greater numbers in the last decade, they are disproportionately located at the low end of the global economy.
Few women are leaders at scientific institutions, head large technology companies or become members of scientific boards. Women are also under-represented in the field of research and development, whether in academia, the public sector or in private companies.
I think we can all agree that it is time to change this situation. Science, technology and innovation can facilitate efforts to eradicate poverty, achieve food security, improve health and education, and advance women’s empowerment. To meet these challenges, we must unleash the power of women’s involvement in science and technology. According to a recent report by UNESCO, Muslim women are continuing to make headway in the field of science and their graduation ratios often exceed those of western women in pursuing scientific degrees.
My own experience has taught me that there is no limit to what women can do — given equal opportunities and access to resources. I also know the importance of role models in entering new fields. And I know that the Muslim world has made historic and lasting contributions to science and has no shortage of strong and smart women.
Another thing that all of us know is that we are living in the age of technology. In the past few decades, ever-shrinking computers, mobile phones, and alternative energies—have been introduced in homes and workplaces, changing the way we live, how we work, and what we’re able to do. And social media has helped trigger social and political change as we have witnessed in the “Arab Spring”.
Improving women’s access to technology can spur women’s advancement and stimulate democracy and broader economic growth.
In moving forward, I encourage you to explore ways to incorporate more women into the development and use of technology and to encourage more women scientists to enter politics where their voices will be heard.
All of us at UN Women stand beside you and I wish you much success.