On 4 March, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, took part in the opening of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
The Director-General participated in a number of events linked with the CSW session. She gave the keynote speech to the UNESCO side event on “Prevention of Gender-based violence through Education,” with the participation of Mr. Masood Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Nations. The side event included also Sarah Degnan Kambou, President of the International Centre for Research on Women, Kalyani Subramanyam, of the Goal Programme, India, and Astrid Aafjes, of Women Win. The discussion occurred with a room packed with officials and experts.
“Gender-based violence is one of the most deadly violations of human rights across the world,” said Irina Bokova, adding that “this violence takes many shapes, but its core remains a devastating violation of human dignity.”
The Director-General underlined the crucial role of education and also sport in preventing and tackling gender-based violence. “Conventions and laws are essential, but they are not enough,” she stated, underlining that “we must educate to shape new norms and behaviours, to uproot the stereotypes that allow for violence.”
Irina Bokova discussed the comprehensive policy guidelines to prevent and tackle violence in and round schools that UNESCO is currently developing, as well as the curricula and training modules on the prevention of gender-based violence for all levels of education. She noted also the pilot projects UNESCO is leading with universities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Ghana, and Liberia, developing courses and training students as “ambassadors” to educate their own communities.
In this context, the Director-General highlighted the importance of the High Level Advocacy Event 'Stand up for Malala -- girls education is a right,' with the President of Pakistan, HE Mr Asif Ali Zardari.
Ambassador Masood Khan reaffirmed Pakistan's deep commitment to promoting education to all, especially girls and women. "Education is enlightenment, education is empowerment, education is development for all," said the Ambassador, underlining UNESCO's leading global role in advancing education for all.
In the margins of the opening of the CSW, the Director-General held a bilateral meeting with Mr Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General. They discussed the situation in Mali and Syria and UNESCO's action in protecting cultural heritage across the world. The discussion also explored progress in taking forward the Global Education First Initiative, for which UNESCO is providing the Secretariat and helping to steer forward.