This year, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first international demonstration staged by thousands of women on both sides of the Atlantic to demand the right to vote. So much for the past. Looking to the future, 2011 marks a turning point just as significant for international women’s rights – the launch of UN Women.
Michelle Bachelet, who headlines this issue as the first Executive Director of the new United Nations agency, explains its whys and wherefores. Also prominent among the women who are taking over the international political scene, Rosa Otunbayeva describes her mandate as first woman president of Kyrgyzstan and Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada, the pact of solidarity with Haiti, her country of origin.
While progress towards gender parity in politics remains slow, women are gaining ground more quickly in the human rights arena. There too, women need a strong hand to break society’s shackles, like Aminetou Mint El Moctar from Mauritania, Maggy Barankitse from Burundi, Sultana Kamal from Bangladesh, Asma Jahangir from Pakistan and Sana Ben Achour from Tunisia. And showing the determination necessary to ensure success, Italian women rallied all over the world to defend their dignity.
This arduous campaign cannot succeed without the media. Two women who have risked their lives to defend freedom of expression, one from Chile and the other from Afghanistan, comment on what “women’s journalism” can represent in certain situations.
Because decent work was a central theme of this year’s celebration of International Women’s Day, we also highlight the situation of Algerian women, caught in the trap of job insecurity. If we mention work, we are talking about economics, another crucial factor in women’s freedom. We see signs at an international level that women’s image and place are starting to change in this realm, long the exclusive domain of men. Locally, we note that women’s role in agriculture contributes to safeguarding the environment and mitigating the effects of climate change.
To close our special report, we rediscover, thanks to Argentine poet Luisa Futoransky, several women who earned distinction in the arts and literature (pp. 43-46), as well as Mother Teresa – we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of her birth – and Manuela Sáenz from Ecuador, fighting fearlessly for Latin America.
In addition, we present a tribute to Édouard Glissant (1928-2011), former editor-in-chief of the UNESCO Courier; interview Princess Loulwah of Saudi Arabia; and introduce a new UNESCO project about Rabindranath Tagore, Aimé Césaire and Pablo Neruda.
Jasmina Šopova, Editor-in-chief