In September 2015, the UN member states adopted the sustainable development goals, which included Goal #5, “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, an important step in improving the situation of women and girls throughout the world. Still today, women are fighting for the same economic and social rights as men.
Few people know that Israel makes great efforts for gender equality on the international front. The Golda Meir MASHAV Carmel International Training Center (MCTC) was founded in Haifa in 1961 by Golda Meir and MASHAV- Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to conduct training activities in the socio-economic arena, with an emphasis on gender equality. Some 23,000 professional women and men from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Oceania, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East have participated in MCTC activities in Israel and abroad.
In all of the activities of the Center, we are working to further the vision of Golda Meir, who was a pioneer in women's diplomacy in Israel and worked to empower women around the world. With the International Women's Day coming up, it is the right timing to discuss other kinds of leadership, especially women’s leadership.
Our conference last week on women in diplomacy, dealt with successes and challenges of women in diplomatic roles and examined how women's leadership could change the face of international affairs today. Diplomacy is no longer an exclusive club for men only. The challenges of Diplomacy in today's dynamic reality, require creativity, good problem solving and cognitive flexibility - Notable skills of women. These days there is a growing awareness and activism worldwide for the promotion of women in various areas, including in the world of diplomacy.
We were very happy to see a large crowd attending the conference, which proves the importance of the issue. Nearly a 100 people attended the conference last week. Guests came from all walks of life including civil society representatives and the Academia. Speakers in the conference presented the improvement in the promotion of the status of women and the increase of women’s participation in various diplomatic positions. Nevertheless, we learnt that we all have much more work to do in order to reach gender equality in the area of employment and work in general, and diplomacy in particular.
The conference's guest of honor, Ms. Tamar Eshel, was the first woman representative of Israel to the United Nations and for many years played various official roles in Israel and abroad. Meeting face to face with Tamar, and listening to her stories we were filled with great admiration for her impressive character. She stood strongly, time after time, in support of her country and represented Israel with professionalism, courage, and determination.
Another fascinating guest was Ambassador, Helene Le Gal, the first woman representing France in Israel after a long line of men's ambassadors since 1949. At the conference, she spoke about the importance of support systems in promoting gender equality at work, such as the French education system that enables women to develop a career. Ambassador Le Gal, said that despite her experience and career status that she has earned over the years, still when she takes part in official events, people ask her "Where is the Ambassador?” assuming it is one of her men colleagues. Other women diplomats attending the conference identified with Ambassador Le Gal and one of them even said that people often turn to her husband, assuming he is the diplomat and not her.
Our goal in this conference was to bring to the forefront the issue of promoting women in international affairs and diplomacy, to learn through real stories from the wisdom of the past and current experiences in order to plan better for future action. At the closing of the conference, I have invited all delegates and guests to hold the next meeting in 2018 at our center in Haifa, and together to examine the process done in the area during the year. Engaging in social change processes requires perseverance and patience. We must remain optimistic and continue to work together towards gender equality in all areas.
Picture 1: Hava Karrie, MCTC Director, Ambassador Helen Le Gal, Ilana Stein, Ambassador Dr. Rodika Radian-Gordon
Picture 2: Tamar Eshel (right side), Ambassador Gil Haskel Head of MASHAV, French Ambassador to Israel Helen Le Gal, Ambassador Dr. Rodika Radian-Gordon, Ambassador of Guatemala to Israel, Ambassador of Ecuador to Israel
Photo credit: Itzik Yona