BY A. Mohammed A. Foboi

Global Ambassador for IMPACT 21, MacDella Cooper has urged world leaders to improve the gender gap between men and women and make women and girls feel safe among the male counterparts.
Speaking on Gender Equality at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Ms. Cooper called on global leaders and national governments to change their policies and understandings of gender equality, noting that women must be actors in decision making processes and not just mere participants.

MacDella Cooper
MacDella Cooper

The Liberian women advocate and philanthropist challenged world leaders to get away from the theoretical concept of gender mainstreaming and move into practical actions that will give power to women and add values to the work; thereby putting them up the ladder of leaderships and getting off the line of followers.

She further called on leaders to protect women against practices that tend to derail their potential and life aspirations. Ms. Cooper noted that women especially adolescent girls are undergoing extreme situations ranging from domestic violence, traditional practices, early marriage and lack of economic and social opportunities; which she said if immediate actions aren?t taken now; half of the world population will lose their status and values.
?He must be for She if He and She must be safe.? Ms. Cooper noted, calling on men to be a force for the rights and protection of women for a safer and more humane world.

For his part, the Foreign Minister of Iceland; His Excellency Gunnar BragiSveinnson noted that healthy relationships between men and women are fundamental to a healthy society.

?As a father of five boys, I am very conscious of my responsibility to help them become useful and happy members of society. A key part of achieving this will be for them to understand that being a real man doesn?t mean being violent; that strength comes in many forms and is not a male monopoly; that the same is true weakness. Understanding what it means to be a man is a condition for establishing healthy and respectful relationships with women, whether they are relatives, friends, or colleagues.? Mr. Sveinnson furthered.
Mr. Sveinnson disclosed that one-third of women suffer some sort of violence in their lives committed by men and 95% of violence against women are committed by men.

The ?Barbershop Conference? brought together experts and activists across the world as well as representatives of UN Member States, in particular Permanent Representatives to the United Nations with the aim of rallying men and boys to commit to upholding gender equality and change the discourse among their peers to build a momentum for gender equality.

The conference was a lead-up to the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+20) expected later this year under the theme ?Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture It!? aims to create a broad political and social support for accelerated implementation of gender equality initiatives.
Over the next eight months, up to September 2015; Ambassador Cooper will work with IMPACT 21, The HeForShe Campaign, Segal Family Foundation, MacDella Cooper Foundation, United Nations agencies, governments, local and civil society organizations to bring together half of humanity in support of the other half, for the benefit of the whole.

Her initiatives will help to stimulate a grassroots dialogue between/among men in achieving gender equality and end violence against women and girls.
Ms. Cooper had promised to create more opportunities for girls and abandoned-children especially in Africa and Asia through the MacDella Cooper Foundation and partners.

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