News & Analysis
By Rita Joshi
BERLIN | VIENNA (IDN) - The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) are determined to undertake necessary steps to make “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”, the theme of the International Women’s Day 2016, a reality. [P41] JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF
Director General, LI Yong, said: “UNIDO recognizes that investing in the economic empowerment of women sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive industrial development.”
He added: “Women make an enormous economic contribution, whether in businesses, as entrepreneurs, as employers or as employees, or by doing care work at home. But they also remain disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation.”
Li declared: “To step up its game for gender equality, UNIDO has recently adopted a new gender policy and gender strategy, and is constantly increasing its portfolio of projects designed to empower women economically.”
The CTBTO admitted that as a security-related organization with a strong technical focus, the Organization is active in traditionally male-dominated fields. “While the CTBTO has yet to reach the aspired 50 per cent female representation across all staff levels, there has been slow but steady progress over recent years towards that goal. The CTBTO has now reached female representation of 43 per cent overall, and 35 per cent in the professional and higher positions,” the Organization said.
CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo highlighted women's contribution to the nuclear test-ban: "Women were and are the driving force behind the ban on nuclear testing. The civil society movements that pushed for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996 and its predecessors were to a large extent grounded in women’s initiatives.”
He recalled a crucial contribution by Dr. Louise Reiss, the scientist who helped to convince President John F. Kennedy to conclude the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty through her ground-breaking Baby Tooth Study."
Dr. Reiss, who died at the age of 90 in January 2011, directed a study that examined hundreds of thousands of baby teeth during the cold war and helped persuade the world’s leading powers to ban nuclear testing in the atmosphere.
Dr. Reiss and her husband, Eric, both physicians, were founding members of the Greater St. Louis Citizens’ Committee for Nuclear Information, which joined with the schools of dentistry at Washington University in St. Louis and St. Louis University in 1959 to create the Baby Tooth Survey.
The goal was to show that radioactive fallout from nuclear testing was getting into the nation’s food supply and ultimately working its way into human bones and teeth. And the study succeeded. Dr. Reiss was named director of the project and, along with her husband, worked with other scientists in the project’s laboratory.
Zerbo said: “I am particularly proud of the women working at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). They brave the elements in the world’s remotest corners to build and maintain our monitoring stations, they work long hours to screen vast amounts of data for suspicious events, and they develop new methods of analysis and management practices. My sincere appreciation and thanks go to all of them, for without them we could not have become what we are today: the world’s centre of verification excellence.”
In CTBTO, women hold responsible positions not only as budget officers and in-charge of corporate communications but also network infrastructure engineers and responsible for the International Monitoring System (IMS), which when completed, would consist of 337 facilities worldwide to monitor the planet for signs of nuclear explosions.
Female staff includes Radionuclide Analysts. Only these measurements can give a clear indication as to whether an explosion detected by the other methods was actually nuclear or not. They are supported by 16 radionuclide laboratories. 80 stations measure the atmosphere for radioactive particles; 40 of them also pick up noble gas.
According to the CTBTO Chief, “there is still a long way to go to achieve real equality on a global scale, where the gap is closing slower than anticipated only a few years ago: In 2015 the World Economic Forum estimated that it may take up to the year 2133 to fully close the gender gap”.
In a profound personal note, the CTBTO Executive Secretary said: “International Women’s Day is of the utmost significance to me – not only professionally, but also as a father to three girls and husband to a woman who has sacrificed part of her own professional career to be the rock of our family. For me, celebrating Women's Day means being appreciative and mindful of the road ahead where gender parity is achieved through common endeavour.”
He added; “It is a day that reminds all men that their mother is the first woman in their lives! The one who teaches empathy, building in all of us something we need: perspective and prospective. . . Together, women and men are the two wings of humanity; they must both fly in harmony.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 9 March 2016]
IDN is the flagship of International Press Syndicate.
Photo: CTBTO Staff