UNESCO promotes gender equality

In meeting with Peres, organization's director-general says equal opportunities won't be available to women unless they are literate and educated.

Matsura peres 224.88 (photo credit: GPO)
Matsura peres 224.88
(photo credit: GPO)
UNESCO is the only United Nations agency that practices what it preaches regarding gender equality, Koichiro Matsura, the organization's director-general, declared on Wednesday during a meeting with President Shimon Peres. Matsura reiterated what he had said the previous week to the UN Interagency Network on Women and Gender Equality, which he had assured that the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was demonstrating its new priority for gender issues. Noting at his meeting with Peres that International Women's Day was only a month away, Matsura recalled that two years ago at UNESCO House in Paris, the keynote speaker at International Women's Day had been Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who had spoken on women in politics and urged more women to become politically active. Sirleaf, the first female president in Africa, was in Israel last November and was given a state reception by Peres. Matsura declared that UNESCO was a global advocate for gender parity and that it realized that equal opportunities would not be available to women unless they were literate and educated. Literacy is another UNESCO goal. There are 770 million illiterate adults in the world, of whom two-thirds are women, said Matsura. "We must educate women. Otherwise, we cannot establish gender equality," she said. Peres suggested that in addition to educating women and encouraging them to enter public life, UNESCO should complete the attempt to liberate women. Peres made it clear that no attempt should be made to interfere with religious customs, but that otherwise, women should be free to have the chance to contribute to society. In this context he mentioned the Middle East, where, he said, women have for too long been repressed and the victims of unreasonable discrimination. The two men also discussed UNESCO World Heritage sites, of which Israel has five: the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls, Masada, the Old City of Acre, the White City of Tel Aviv and the biblical tells of Megiddo, Hazor and Beersheba. Matsura indicated that more Israeli sites would be given UNESCO World Heritage status.