On November 27, Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno hosted the third International Forum of Women Leaders. Over 90 representatives of state and educational establishments, international and nongovernmental organizations, parliament members, and gender equality experts took part in the event.

The forum became part of the program enabling women leadership and participation in political and social life.  

The forum was attended by Irina Kostevich, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Republic of Belarus, Irina Kiturko, rector of Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno, UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki, Anca Sandescu, project manager of capacity-building and co-operation projects of the Gender Equality Division of the Council of Europe,  Ajla van Heel, acting chief of the Democratic Governance and Gender Unit, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

Speaking to the audience Minister of Labour and Social Protection Irina Kostevich emphasized that Belarus is a gender equality leader among 160 countries of the world. All this was made possible due to the high rates of women's health and high level of participation of women in the labour market and education. Belarus is also a leader in the Girls' Opportunity Index ranking 24th among 144 countries.

Opening the Forum, UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki underlined that in Belarus women are very active in political life, “Belarus has much to be proud of when it comes to promotion of women’s interests. Being ranked 28th by the Global Gender Gap Report-2018 of the World Economic Forum Belarus is ahead of many countries of the region. These achievements of the country are possible due to participation of women leaders. To name just two outstanding examples, the current National Coordinator on Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and a real leader of this area is a woman, our friend and colleague Marianna Shchetkina. The most famous representative of Belarus in the world is also a woman, a Nobel prize winner in literature Svetlana Alexievich.”

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Nevertheless, the challenges associated with inequality of women remain numerous. In Belarus, women earn an average of 25% less than men. Industrial segregation is observed in the economic sphere: the companies owned by men constitute a majority in the manufacturing sector and information technology, and women’s businesses mainly belong to health and social services, i.e. generate less absolute and relative profit. In households women face unequal distribution of domestic work among partners. Domestic violence where the majority of victims are women is a severe problem.

“Women suffer from inequality, but the society at large suffers too. It is inequality that prevents women from unlocking their potential and realize their talents and abilities for the benefit of the country,” said Ms. Kazana-Wisniowiecki.

Gender equitable society is one of four so-called sustainable development accelerator platforms (accelerators) recommended by the UN experts in accordance with Sustainable Development Goals. These accelerators span policy and programmatic areas of sustainable development of the country and define the priorities of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (2021-2025) for the Republic of Belarus.