UN Women - United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

Remarks of Michelle Bachelet at Rio+20 leaders forum special luncheon showcasing women’s innovation

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Date: 19 June 2012

At a special lunch event, UN Women Executive Director Michele Bachelet introduced the work of women innovators in the field of sustainable development. Speakers shared experiences, lessons learned and successes from their day-to-day lives. 19 June 2012.

I would like to welcome all participants to the session showcasing women's innovation for sustainable development.

We are in for a treat. This session is a bit different from the rest of the day's programme. Women will tell us their stories and how they moved their communities towards gender equality, women's empowerment and sustainable development.

Two of the speakers - from Nepal and Senegal- have received the SEED Gender Equality Award for these achievements. The award was an innovation in itself, to reward initiatives run by women that promote gender equality. It is a collaborative initiative of UN Women and the SEED Secretariat (UNEP) launched in 2011.

The Award is designed to find the most promising, innovative and locally led start-up social and environmental entrepreneurs in countries with developing and emerging economies. I think you will soon agree that all of the presentations today are award winners!

History has taught us that great changes often happen as a result of small and unexpected changes, or catalysts. Virtuous circles of change can be sparked by the innovation of seemingly simple technologies, minor changes to technology or simply new ways of using the same technology.

Change can also be generated from shifts in social attitudes on what is possible for women, on new roles and responsibilities, and the development results that women can generate.

We need to learn from each other and support innovative initiatives.

We also need to pay tribute to those who walked before us. One of the pioneers of women's participation, democracy and sustainable development is an African woman, the first to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She passed away last year and her name is Wangari Maathai.

Thirty-five years ago, when Wangari Maathia planted seven trees on Earth Day in a public park in Nairobi, little did she know she was starting a movement.

The Greenbelt Movement has planted more than 50 million trees in Kenya and inspired millions of people worldwide to take action to protect the environment.

Today we are with each other in spirit. At this Leaders' Forum special event, let's show our appreciation to this special leader, Wangari Maathai.

This Special Event aims for the speakers to share experiences, lessons learned and successes from their day-to-day lives. As you can see from the programme, women have been strong innovators in the energy sector.

Now I have the privilege to introduce the speakers:

Ms. Bishnu Thakali is President of Women Environment Protection Committee, Nepal, and a SEED Gender Equality Award Winner in 2011. Ms. Thakali will talk about her initiative to turn waste into bio-gas energy in Nepal.

Ms. Marie Dialo is Founder of “Dr Marie Dialo Laboratoires, Senegal , and SEED Award Winner in 2011. Ms. Dialo will talk about her business to cultivate and process plants to create sustainable cosmetic and nutritional products.

Dr. Meshgan Mohammed Al Awar is Secretary General of the Zayed International Prize for the Environment and representative of the United Arab Emirates to UNESCO's World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology. She will talk about the steps taken in UAE to provide women and girls with education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and how this has contributed to women's increased opportunities to get green jobs.

Ms. Rasha Ahmed Ali Abd Rabu is an Innovator of the United Arab Emirates. Ms. Ali Abd Rabu, the youngest of the speakers, will showcase her innovation on recycling cooking oil to generate energy.

Ms. Evelyn Namara, is from Solar Sisters, Uganda. Ms. Namara will show us an innovative business solution for solar lamps and phone chargers. She will also provide some examples of how solar energy impacts on women's empowerment.

Ms. Judith Rodin is President, Rockefeller Foundation. Ms. Rodin will showcase the Foundation's initiatives on women innovators and women's use of technology.

Please join me in giving our speakers a warm welcome and round of applause!