Distinguished Speakers, Dear Moderator, and Guests,
March is a special month in our calendar not only because of Martisor and the welcoming of spring, but also because it allows us to celebrate women and the key role women have in society.
One of the first things I noticed after I started working in Romania is the strength and diversity demonstrated by women here – across all walks of life. I have encountered well-educated professionals leading sophisticated work in the private sector, in universities and government ministries, charismatic leaders of non-governmental organizations, and hard-working heads of household in rural communities coping with heavy burdens.
Yet more often than not, women’s economic contributions go unrecognized and their work undervalued. A country needs to make the best possible use of all of its assets – especially to all of its human capital. So, gender equality is an economic imperative in addition to a social one. Growth cannot be achieved without equal opportunities, especially in aging societies like Romania.
The World Bank considers gender equality as an essential component of effective development. In the past two decades gender equality has progressively taken center stage for the international development community. Equality not only guarantees basic rights but also plays a vital role in promoting the robust, and shared growth needed to end poverty in our increasingly competitive, globalized world.
In Romania we are fortunate to live and work in the European Union where the equal treatment of men and women has been at the core of the Union’s value systems since its inception and the principle of gender equality is central to all its activities.
Even so, in Romania there remain challenges and areas that need improvement in reducing the gender gap and providing opportunities for all. I would like to bring to your attention just a few significant gender challenges that need to be addressed:
- First, increasing labour force participation of women – activation on the labour market of inactive women (low educated and with limited/no work experience) in their prime age living in rural areas;
- Second. Concerning one of our largest marginalized communities, the Roma - developing human capital among the women is likely to impact positively educational outcomes of children, labour force participation and better maternal and infant health;
- Third. Preventing widespread poverty among elderly women - the demographic shift will result in the elderly population being predominantly female in excess of 60 percent in Europe and Central Asia.
With this in mind I am grateful that we will have two important speakers joining us today in an engaging dialogue on equal opportunities - Professor Miroiu whose contribution to equality of opportunity and gender agenda recommends her in promoting the role of women in society and Dr. Bitu, an equally energetic feminist active in the social field.
I look forward to hearing about their rich experience and to our dialogue on how to best empower women, enhance their ability to make decisions, and take advantage of opportunities. Women have the potential to change their own economic status, as well as that of the communities and countries in which they live.