Michelle Bachelet Statement for the 12th International Association of Women in Development Forum on Women’s Rights and Development

Date: Saturday, April 21, 2012

Video Message of Michelle Bachelet for the 12th International Association of Women in Development Forum on Women's Rights and Development, 20 April 2012, Istanbul,

Good morning! It is my pleasure to join you today at the 12th International Association of Women in Development Forum on Women's Rights and Development.

I bring you greetings from New York, and from all colleagues worldwide at UN Women.

I thank you for inviting me to be part of this panel on: “Economic Power, Why does it matter and how to understand it in the current global context.

I believe that economic power is absolutely fundamental to women's empowerment and gender equality. And it is especially important now in this time of financial stress and insecurity. That is why I am placing a special emphasis this year on advancing women's political participation and economic empowerment.

I know from my own personal experience as a political activist and political leader that my own economic power shaped my political vision.

I worked hard to become a doctor, a Minister of Health, a Minister of Defense. And I know that if I had not been Minister of Defense, and perceived as a tough and decisive leader in the military and defense sector, I probably would not have been elected President.

We still have to overcome stereotypes and outmoded definitions and perceptions of power. We still have to overcome deeply entrenched notions of masculinity and sexism and move towards real equality.

That is why equal rights and social protection were at the heart of my government in Chile during 2006 - 2010. Many reforms were implemented and huge investments were made to enhance access to health, pensions, education, housing, water and sanitation and especially to promote child development and gender equality.

I am often asked: What does it take to make economic change for women?

It takes laws, policies and programmes that advance women's rights, equal opportunities and equal access.

Women need equal access to decent work, resources, assets, markets, social services and social and legal protection.

It takes a focus on inclusion, human rights and equality. It takes men sharing equal responsibilities with women for housework and childcare.

And, it takes political will. This means taking the time to build coalitions and alliances. When I ran for President of Chile, I reached out to trade unions, and to civil society.

Most importantly, and this will come as no surprise to you: It takes women!

To make economic change, women need to demand and claim their rights. From the Beijing Platform for Action, to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, to the ILO Conventions including the new one on domestic workers, and other treaties.

All around the world changes are happening in women's lives - in many countries, women are discovering new freedoms, exploring new horizons and breaking away from old patterns, stereotypes and limitations.

In the process, they are often facing opposition and exploitation, and encountering new forms of oppression.

A new report by Pathway found that where projects, programmes and policies have made a difference, they have done so because they recognised the power of relationships, and the importance of confronting limiting stereotypes and institutionalising new norms.

At the heart of these changes have been women's organisations and movements, visionary and committed women leaders, and collective action by women like yourselves.

Two lessons have been learned. First, to build equality, the deep structural causes of gender inequality and discrimination must be firmly addressed. We need structural change. None of us want to see women recruited and put to work to maintain a status quo that is unfair and exploits them.

Secondly, collective action provides the foundation for sustained empowerment. For UN Women, these two findings constitute valuable guides for our work.

To all of you gathered for this AWID Conference, I look forward to working with you for women's rights, empowerment and equality.

I am pleased to announce that I am in the final stages of establishing a global civil society advisory group to advise me. I will be announcing the composition of this group shortly. I have taken every care to ensure that the group is based on recommendations from civil society, is diverse, eminent and rotational.

Advisory groups at country and regional levels are also being set up and some of you may be aware of these processes already. This is a very important step for UN Women and I very much look forward to strengthened collaboration.

As we move forward, we will make progress by being wise and courageous, never giving up and staying united for our common cause of women's rights and justice!

I thank you and wish you much success!