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 Wednesday, 06 April 2011
Women remain second-class citizens in too many countries, deprived of basic rights or legitimate opportunities, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling on universities to help in the fight to overcome discrimination and change perceptions about what women can and should do.

Speaking to the Global Colloquium of University Presidents, held at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Mr. Ban said universities can play “a significant role” in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“They can provide the training in critical thinking that a functional democracy needs,” he said. “They provide a foundation for the economic and medical research that is so essential to society’s well-being. And they supply graduates to the workforce.

“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.”

Mr. Ban said it was vital to give girls and young women the inspiration and tools so they have the opportunity to achieve, citing as an example the recent introduction of an all-female unit of Indian police officers to the UN peacekeeping force in Liberia (UNMIL).

“There was an immediate practical benefit – women felt safer and they felt more empowered to complain about the abuse they were enduring. But there was another, unanticipated consequence. Liberian women queued up to join their own police service. Because they saw it, they knew they could be it.”

Earlier this year a new UN entity known as UN Women came into being to replace four separate organizations working to advance the rights of women worldwide.

(Source: UN News Centre)

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