Sunday, October 21, 2007

Davos des dames

Did we know there was such a thing as the Women’s Forum where women from 70 countries, many holding some of the highest ranks of economic and political power, come to discuss a “new feminism”, solidaire and affectionate? While men were not totally excluded from this 2-day meeting in Deauville, France, the idea was to find a “feminine way," Forum founder Aude Zieseniss de Thuin (above), wrote Annick Cojean in Le Monde. “If women were involved in the economy, the world would be better off”, proclaimed South Africa's Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (left) to a round of applause, while panels including the likes of Ana Palacio (World Bank), Chinese environmentalist Sheri Xiaoyi Liao, and Laurence Parisot (the first woman to head France’s powerful union of industry bosses) discuss how to promote social cohesion and counter climate change. As with most such meetings though, the real exchanges were in corridors and around café tables, where one of the few men present couldn’t believe lack of rivalry: “men can’t help judging each other. Here, the pleasure in meeting people, in sharing information and mentoring is sincere”. According to designer Agatha Ruiz de La Prada, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero understands that women tend to plan for the long term and has turned Spain into a dynamic, modern country by requiring woman-man parity in industry as well as government. In the words of Soukeyna Ba, a Senagalese woman who began a micro-credit program in 1987 that has since helped 120,000 women create businesses that will change the lives of 3 generations: “when men have money, they run around with women, maybe buy a new car; a woman’s money comes home to finance the highest education possible for her children. Other inspiring examples of women’s power to lead and transform: Bangladeshi Runa Khan, who not only turned a French barge into a floating hospital serving the islands of the Brahmapoutre region, where there is only 1 doctor for 4 million people, but has also created about 100 dispensaries and started a school for 150,000 children; May Chidiac (left), the Lebanese journalist who defiantly returned to the studios to continue her news broadcasts after losing an arm and a leg in a terrorist blast; and the 50 Chinese forum attendees, the eldest of whom, Wu Qing (right), a deputy from Beijing reported simply as having “grey hair” and clearly garnering great respect, reminded her younger colleagues (with their perfect English and doctorates from Harvard, Chicago or New York) not to forget the women still living in miserable conditions in rural areas, subject to discrimination even before birth (as girls continue to be aborted under the one-child policy):
[F]ight for their education. If you educate a man, you touch an individual; if you educate a woman, you touch an entire family and several future generations.
Kudos to the organizers.

No comments: