Wednesday, 24 October 2012
Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade Debate
The Joint Committee met at 14:30
Business of Joint Committee
I remind members of the joint committee and those in the Visitors Gallery to ensure their mobile phones are switched off for the duration of the meeting as they cause interference, even in silent mode, with the recording equipment.
Gender Equality: Discussion
Chairman: I am delighted to welcome Ms Saraswathi Menon, director of policy, UN Women, an entity established in 2010. I am also delighted to welcome Ms Lilian Looloitai, director, Community Research and Development Services, CORDS, a voluntary organisation concerned with the development needs of the pastoral communities in northern Tanzania; our good friend, Mr. Jim Clarken, chief executive officer, Oxfam Ireland; and Dr. Nata Duvvury, co-ordinator of global women’s studies and the MA in gender globalisation and development at NUI Galway.
Gender equality is a fundamental human right and essential to effective poverty reduction. Advancing the empowerment and equality of women is fundamental to the elimination of gender inequalities in access to, control of and the benefit of resources and services. Irish Aid, the Government’s overseas development programme, has placed a strong emphasis on the need to advance equal rights for men and women and actively supported work in our partner countries to combat gender-based violence, improve maternal and reproductive health services, prioritise the nutritional needs of pregnant women and infants, increase access by girls and women to education and assist women affected by or living with HIV-AIDS. Irish Aid supports local protection programmes in some of our partner countries which are actively directed towards women in vulnerable circumstances, increasing participation by women in politics and women’s access to and control over agricultural resources and services.
Last August, with Mr. Jim Wells, MLA, and Mr. Jim Clarken, I visited northern Tanzania to see at first hand the work being done by our non-governmental organisations. I am delighted we met two of our guests today there. We were given a great insight in the work being done to overcome the obstacles, the culture and the difficulties women encountered in African societies. Only last week a delegation from this committee visited Sierra Leone to review the delivery of the Irish Aid programme there. We were struck by the immense challenges faced by women. For example, gender-based violence is a serious problem.
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