By Raphaëlle Laubie, guest blogger, reporting from Women’s Forum 2012
This was my first time, first day, at the Women’s Forum, chaired by Véronique Morali since 2011, an emblematic figure of female networks. It’s a privilege to attend this event where world-leading women raise their voices about the current global, social and economic issues. Virginie Morgon and Evelyne Sevin introduced the 17 out of 20 nominees of the 2012 Rising Talents project, a network of highly talented women from 39 countries. Since 2007 and each year, 20 women are selected from a variety of different backgrounds and are being helped through the path of their careers’ acceleration.
The first session I attended was about major achievements that remain to be overcome, namely: “What do we still need to do better for women?”
Raghida Dergham, a Lebanese-born American citizen and a senior diplomatic correspondent for the London-based Al Hayat, presented Shirin Ebadi. Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer and human rights activist awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. Listed by Forbes Magazine in 2004 as one as one of the “100 most powerful women in the world”. More recently (2009), her Nobel Peace Prize was confiscated by the Iranian authorities and Shirin Ebadi had to exile in UK. From these critical times, she kept in mind the question of human rights for women. According to Shirin Ebadi, “education is the only way to liberation”. Indeed, “unless you educate women you cannot expect women to end the discriminatory predicament they are facing. For this very reason, Iran has the strongest feminist movement of the Islamic world and a large number of educated female. However, the Islamic fundamentalist do their utmost to put obstacles for women’s education and the Taliban used to close the girsl/women schools. When the Taliban were toppled, they reopened the girls’ schools in many regions of Afghanistan, so that they can become literate. Because when women get educated, they oppose gender discrimination. Finally, Shirin Ebadi went through this both stirring and moving story of Malala Yousaf zai, a 11 year old girl. Malala defied the Swat Taliban, writing a blog –under a pet name – in order to feature a campaign on girls’ fights for education. She was awarded at the international level for bravery and has she got head and neck on October 9 as she returned home from a girls’ school.
Then I headed to my second session hosted by women with multicultural outlooks and expertise. The question raised was: Is China a model for women’s empowerment? Dr. Julie Laulusa, co-Managing Partner of Mazars since 2002, has an outstanding knowledge of Chinese business development and advises companies in their business settlements in China. She explained that European may have in mind the idea that Chinese women are very submitted citizens, inspired by “movies or even novels, which is not accurate”. China is very diverse in terms of culture or education and cities are very different from one another. According to her, the economic growth of China and the increase of women’s education will contribute to women emancipation but will certainly not be sufficient to contribute to a proper women empowerment. Indeed, “the society must help legislating and making the gender discrimination lower.”
The following session was stressing out the growing threat of diabetes, acknowledged as a worldwide epidemic. Geremia Brunetto Bolli, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine highlighted alarming figures about this blatant disease expansion: “Worldwide, 366 million people are currently living with diabetes, and this population will grow to 552 million before 2030” And “as women may have responsibilities on their men and families’ heath can save lives”, such session may be of some interest in the Women’s Forum. What is “diabetes”? It’s a global disease, rapidly growing. Some people use the world tsunami for explaining diabetes’ expansion. It describes an abnormal increase of glucose in blood (> 126mg/dl, normal should be below 100mg/dl, Pre-diabetes in between). In 2000, the previsions were highlighting that diabetes would double in 25 years. Nowadays, the figures exceed these previsions and Africa, and Middle East countries are standing on top of this progression.
1 in 12 people has diabetes and 50% of people that have diabetes are actually undiagnosed. And as diabetes shortens life (If diabetes appears at 40 more than 6 years of life are lost for both genders according to a recent study in US Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration NEJM 2011; 364:829), worsens quality of life and is expensive for governments; this awareness is by far not far-fetched.
Before the first day ended, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Government Spokesperson and French Minister of Women’s Rights, pointed to the need for changes in attitudes, the need for gender and remuneration equalities. In France, women still perceive wages that are 27% lower than men. A load of work ahead, isn’t it?