Ban Ki-moon urges universities to promote women’s empowerment


A week or so ago, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared: “Women remain second-class citizens in too many countries, deprived of basic rights or legitimate opportunities”. It was during the Global Colloquium of University Presidents, held at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, USA.

In July 2010, the entity UN Women was created: it is the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. UN members thus recognized the crucial importance of gender equality in the world. The attention UN seem to pay to the current gender equality situation become thus greater.

We saw it and keep on seeing it in the revolutions in the Middle East: women are shoulder-to-shoulder with men in their battle for democracy. Still, even though women’s rights have come a long way in the past decades, women continue to be considered as second-class citizens in many countries: “Too many women, in too many countries, have no other role beyond marrying and producing children at a young age, then taking care of those families. […] Although the gender gap in education is closing, far too many girls are still denied schooling, leave prematurely, or complete school with few skills and fewer opportunities. Two-thirds of illiterate adults are female”, said Ban Ki-moon.

According to his speech, universities play a significant role in women’s empowerment. These institutions are able to provide “the  training in critical thinking that a functional democracy needs”. Furthermore, universities are “a foundation for the economic and medical research that is so essential to society’s well-being. […] So it is essential that this issue of women’s rights and women’s representation is reflected in your curricula, your appointments, your practices and your partnerships”. Universities are therefore able at helping change the way women are perceived and overcome discrimination.