Nema Etheridge for GlobalAtlanta
Government and institutional leaders from around the world are teaming up with the United Nations to organize a first-of-its-kind gender equality workshop that is to be held in Atlanta Nov. 13-15.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, El Salvador Vice President Ana Vilma Albanez de Escobar and Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller are among the leaders on the steering committee for the upcoming workshop.

The workshop will be the first in a series of conferences to be held around the world until 2009 that are designed to encourage greater female representation in the fields of academia, business and government.

Increasing women’s roles in leadership activities helps countries reduce poverty, promote sustainable development and build good governance, according to a statement issued by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, regarding the topic.

The U.N. has taken on the issue as a part of its Millennium Development Goals that works to achieve a number of capacity-building initiatives by 2015.

The U.N.’s Institute for Training and Research is thus implementing workshops to promote greater gender equality worldwide. It chose to launch the program from Atlanta because of the city’s international reputation, according to Axel Leblois, executive director of CIFAL Atlanta, the local U.N. affiliate putting on the conference here.

“Atlanta was purposely chosen by UNITAR to take the lead on this topic globally because of its international profile as a city promoting social change, its civil rights heritage and Mayor Franklin’s stature as a leader,” Mr. Leblois told GlobalAtlanta in an email interview.

Atlanta’s universities and colleges including Agnes Scott College, the Women’s College at Brenau University and Spelman College have also contributed to the conference, helping the U.N. to develop a framework that gauges a city’s level of gender sensitivity and female empowerment.

The more than 50 participants who are expected to attend the conference from around the world, are required to use the framework to conduct a self-assessment exercise on their own city before arriving.

Working with other community leaders, participants consider their city’s ability to offer a woman secure access to education, inclusion in the local workforce, opportunities for mentoring, participation in the local government and other ways to influence social and economic policies.

The self-assessments are then used to pair up representatives who would be best suited to learn from each other during the Atlanta conference.

“The framework [also] serves as a basis for discussion, best practice sharing and peer-to-peer interaction at the workshop,” said Natasha Ohadi Mathews, program analyst with CIFAL Atlanta.

Also during the conference, participants are encouraged to draft “action-plans,” to actually implement change when they return home, Ms. Mathews said.

Representatives from Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, England, Jordan, Nepal, Nigeria, Panama, the Philippines, South Africa, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, the United States and Vietnam are to attend.

Expected speakers to the conference include Brigitte Grouwels, Belgium’s secretary of state for equal opportunity and Carmen Moreno, a former Mexican diplomat who is now the director of the U.N. International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women.

Additional gender equality conferences are to take place beginning in 2007 in collaboration with 11 other CIFAL offices located around the world.

Promoting female representation in the workplace is one of eight Millennium Development Goals that U.N. member states agreed to achieve by 2015. Other goals include eradicating poverty, combating the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS or malaria, ensuring environmental sustainability and achieving universal primary education.

For more information on the conference, visit

For further information or sponsorship opportunities, contact Francesca Cesa Bianchi, CIFAL program manager, at (404) 962-4840.