The keynote speaker of this year's successful Women's Worlds 2005, held at Ewha in June, was the Honorable Gertrude Mongella. Among the small number of women world leaders she stands as one who has empowered the lives of many Africans by becoming the first woman President of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP). Projecting a serene, silent confidence, she spoke both generally of critical issues regarding women in leadership and specifically of the role of Korean women.
As Mongella began talking, she noted the significance of Women's Worlds being held in Asia for the first time, and particularly in Korea. "The majority of women in this world are Asian. And if you want to deal with the majority, you must deal with Asia," said Mongella. She pointed out how Korea was an appropriate role model for less developed countries in that great social advancement has been made whilst sustaining strong cultural identity, which is vital in development.
However, Mongella also came with intentions to question the role of women in Korean society during the 40 years of its vast improvement. "There was the woman during those years? What has she learned? How has it benefited her?" Here were some of the questions she laid on the table.
Mongella recognized Ewha as an educational hub for young Korean women and expressed that whether a coed or non-coed environment is better for a woman is simply a matter of choice. She clearly remarked that there are advantages in both; however, neither excludes one from society, where women must aspire to lead both women and men by breaking the glass ceiling. She encourages students to, "Get in leadership. Face challenges, and stand up to them."
When asked what is the most critical issue concerning women's rights, Mongella pinpointed two basic needs which serve as fundamental in building an egalitarian society. "Decision making power, and economic power," she says. "Women must be able to make decisions at all levels, be it in a family, community, or government. Ultimately, a woman's decision will influence change in all these levels. Without economic power, she cannot carry out those decisions, thus the two must go together."