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66th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) – Virtual Side Event

Statement delivered by Minister for Equal Opportunities, Prof. Elena Bonetti, at the Side Event on “Empowering Women through Cooperatives” —

Distinguished Ministers,


Distinguished participants,

Let me start by thanking the Minister for Family and Social Services, Derya Yanik for the invitation to participate in today’s event. It highlights the crucial role of civil society in fostering women’s empowerment in our societies.

We are now know that to build a better future for the whole society we need the contribution from women, from all women, in every country and in every sector. In particular, we must advance gender equality for all women and girls, both in urban and rural areas. This commitment entails implementing specific policies tailored for specific situations. We cannot apply the model “one size fits all” any longer. Climate change teaches us that urban women will not face the same struggles and the challenges as rural women.

The UN Secretary General, in his report for the 66th CSW, cast a light on the impact of climate change and other interconnected challenges.

Clearly, climate change has also an impact on the safeguard of universal human rights, in particular the rights to life and dignity, to development, to an adequate standard of living, to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, to water and sanitation, to a healthy environment.

It is indisputable that women have suffered disproportionally the consequences of this ongoing crisis.

On the other hand, we are also aware that they can give a decisive contribution towards a more resilient and sustainable development. To this end, we must encourage women’s leadership. Women must be agents of change in our endeavors to tackle climate change. Rural women, who represent a quarter of the world’s population, play a crucial role in preserving and improving their communities and their livelihood systems. They are pivotal to economic and agricultural growth, poverty reduction and in meeting food needs.

Few years ago, in its General Recommendation, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women urged the States Parties to CEDAW to single out and address the specific threats posed to rural women by climate change, natural disasters, land and soil degradation, pollution, desertification, industries, loss of biodiversity. This list could be longer. Still, it already reflects the magnitude of the risks women in rural areas are mostly exposed to.

States are urged to honor their responsibility by taking actions to ensure that rural women enjoy a safe, clean and healthy environment. Moreover, more efforts are needed to encourage rural women’s full participation in the design, planning and implementation stages of all policies. These achievements are premised on better access for women to political posts and leadership positions. Women must be at the forefront of the decision-making process in all sectors.

Against the alarming backdrop of climate change and environmental degradation, gender equality and women’s empowerment can be attained through integrated policies that uphold rights, promote resilience and encourage the development of sustainable and regenerative economies. Education is pivotal, in particular to boost women and girls’ participation in STEM disciplines.

Furthermore, it is imperative that we grant better support to women’s cooperatives, by strengthening their sustainability, their institutional capacity, and by increasing their visibility, as pursued by the Womencoop initiative.

To this point, the Italian Government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan has allocated the Next Generation EU funds to finance and support new green policies centered on a gender transformative approach for the future.

However, let me say, we cannot unlock the full potential of women in our society without eradicating gender-based violence first. Italy is fully committed in this field and has recently adopted the new National Plan of Action on male violence against women for the years, in line with the provisions of the Istanbul Convention. This is one of the key legal instruments aimed to prevent and counter gender-based violence in all its forms. In particular, the new plan envisages targeted measures to guarantee women’s economic independence. Let me spotlight two tools in particular: the Income of Freedom and the Microcredit of Freedom schemes, devised to support women who fell victim to violence and help them start a new life by opening up to them the avenues of entrepreneurial endeavors.

We want to build a future where women can actively put their skills at the service of the green revolution and effectively contribute to the fight against environmental disasters. We envision a future where more and more women can hold political and economic leadership roles and guide our countries towards increased sustainability, not only environmental, but also economic and social.

Thank you very much for your attention.