Women leaders must link with grassroots

A Staff Reporter
Filed on March 13, 2006

ABU DHABI Women in leadership should maintain close contacts with their counterparts in the grassroots level because to change the world we need heat from the top and from the bottom too, an international human rights activist said here yesterday.

"We need women leaders in visibility to be in touch with women in grassroots level. As leaders, we must remember, and indeed work for women who are struggling everyday," Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland and Former

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the 'Women as Global Leaders Conference' that opened at the Emirates Palace.

When asked whether the global leadership would be a far fetched idea for those women who are still fighting for equal rights, Mary responded, "It is true. But we are trying to create more opportunities for such women through the Framework convention of Equal Rights. It is actually a good tool for common women to create leadership at local levels."

"The basic idea is to change the world, we need heat from the top and heat from the bottom," quipped the first women president of Ireland and the current Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders.

On a question whether she perceived culture as a barrier to progress of women, Mary remarked, "Yes in a sense, it is. But through the national convention for elimination of discrimination against women, I think we need to address not the cultural issue but rather the harmful traditional practices. When you say harmful traditional practices that hold back women, it is much easier to address than addressing deep culture that is somehow sacred and sensitive."

"Women need to be very careful to say that it is just a male dominated tradition and we as women need full rights under the convention."

Commenting on the progress of Arab women, Mary noted that she was impressed by the status of women in the UAE which was well advanced than other Arab countries she had been to as they are actively participating in the ministries, in universities and in business circles.

"At the same time, it is also true that women still have not fulfilled their full potential in the Arab world as is pointed out in the Human Development report by the United Nations."

Women are still facing terrible problems globally. The approach to cut down on allocations for family planning, reproductive health etc. are affecting them badly. Their participation in the local government is not as much as we would like. It is in the interest of the societies and the humanity to give women equal participation in leadership.

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