Ambassador Raymond Wolfe
Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations
At the Side Event – The Road to Beijing: Critical Building Blocks
In Memoriam to Helvi Sipila (Finland) and Lucille Mair (Jamaica)
United Nations Headquarters
9 March 2010
Assistant Secretary General,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to welcome you to this special event, in memory of Ms Helvi Sipila of Finland and the late Dr Lucille Mair of Jamaica, as we gather on the margins of the 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Jamaica is pleased to serve as a co-sponsor along with Finland and the Office of the Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI).
Indeed, this event in memory of two women of international acclaim, has particular significance when we take into account the critical building blocks on the road to Beijing; as well as the advances made in the area of gender equality and the empowerment of women, since the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the Fourth World Conference on Women held 15 years ago.
As we reflect on, and review the progress made since Beijing, it has become clear that although progress has been made, there are still some obstacles to achieving gender parity in many countries. As we undertake such a review, it is important to recognize the important contribution of those who helped to make Beijing a reality and that is what we seek to do today.
It is therefore fitting that we pay tribute to the late Dr Lucille Mathurin Mair of Jamaica, especially having regard to the very illustrious and outstanding role that she played not only as Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1992 to 1995, but in the numerous posts which she held at the United Nations, most notably in support of the international campaign for the advancement of women’s rights across the globe.
I recall in particular her significant contribution as Secretary-General of the World Conference of the United Nations Declaration for Women held in 1980 in Copenhagen, which again from 1981 – 1982 was complemented by her role as Special Advisor to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Women’s Development at the Assistant Secretary-General level.
Dr Mair also left an indelible mark in the role that she played as a member of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Group for the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, among a number of other international conferences devoted to the Advancement of Women.
Jamaicans are justifiably proud that beyond the significant contributions which she made in the multilateral arena, the late Dr Lucille Mair was also a relentless and passionate advocate for the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality within the United Nations Secretariat itself. Her admirable record as a highly accomplished and internationally acclaimed diplomatic figure undoubtedly contributed to her appointment as Under-Secretary-General in 1982, the first woman to be appointed at that level in the United Nations.
Within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade of Jamaica, as well as for Caribbean women and other female nationals from developing countries in the United Nations Secretariat, Dr Mair remains a truly remarkable international role model. As the first adviser on women’s affairs to the Government of Jamaica in 1974, she spearheaded the establishment of the Women’s Desk which led to the establishment of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs in 1975.
As stated by the Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, Mrs Faith Webster, and I quote: Dr Mair “… is praised as a trailblazer in her work, and her life is a testimony of the strength and achievements of a phenomenal woman. Her service and her commitment will long be remembered.” Dr Mair was a historian, diplomat, advisor and pioneer in women’s affairs and gender studies.
In closing, I acknowledge the presence of Dr Elsa Leo-Rhynie of Jamaica who will further elaborate on the life, work and accomplishments of the late Dr Lucille Mair.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
This afternoon’s session will remind us that the Beijing Platform for Action and the Special Session of the General Assembly have laid the blue print to assist States with the formulation of national policy, in keeping with global standards and norms and to implement the respective international agreements on gender equality and the empowerment of women. We pay homage to the distinguished women who have contributed to this process. As such, we salute the late Dr Lucille Mathurin Mair and Ms Helvi Sipila and the many other unsung heroines who have advocated the advancement of women on the road to, and since Beijing.
I thank you.