Thirty women culture ministers from all over the world are in Reykjavík to participate in a Special Meeting of Women Ministers of Culture, which starts today.
The meeting is held in honour of Iceland’s former president and first chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who celebrated her 75 birthday in April.
British lawyer Cherie Blair, a keynote speaker at the meeting, told the Icelandic Broadcasting Service, RÚV, yesterday that the most important message to nations around the world regarding equal rights is that a nation that does not harness the power of women, and encourage them, is like a a person who amputates his/her right arm. She also said women make up half of the world’s population and they have at least as much, if not more, talent than men.
Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir Iceland’s minister of culture, said the meeting was an important step to increase equality in the world. She said that Icelanders are at the forefront of equal rights issues for women even though some believe Icelanders are moving slowly. She said that there have been remarkable achievements in the last century even though some issues are still unresolved such as wage disparity.
The goal of the meeting is to “create a platform of dialogue between the women ministers on the cultural challenges they face, both nationally and globally”.
According to a released statement the keynote speakers include:
- Cherie Blair presents the World Economic Forum report “Women’s Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap” where women’s education, economic status and power is compared on a global level.
- Iranian born human right activist Mahnaz Afkhami will talk about women’s cultural rights. Afkhami was a minister in Iran before the revolution. She has been in exile for 25 years.
- Dr. Annette Pritchard will talk about media, culture and tourism, focusing on the exposure and role of women, a minority in leading position in tourism.
- Asma Khader, former Minister of Culture in Jordan will talk about media and democratic development in the Middle East and its impact on women and culture.
According to a released statement the prospective benefits of this meeting include:
- Discovering specific ways in which women ministers of culture can cooperate, in order to share best practices derived from the experience of developing and developed countries and to form a powerful, united force for policy change, with a focus on gender, at a regional, national, and global level.
- Formulating a joint statement by women ministers of culture, highlighting the importance of including women’s perspectives on the global agenda, which can then be shared with male ministers of culture, UNESCO, and other important organizations.
Representatives from international organizations such as UNIFEM will also join the meeting.
The meeting is jointly organized by the Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, and the Council of Women World Leaders, in cooperation with the Icelandic Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and External Trade.