Video Message from Michelle Bachelet United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women at High Level Human Rights, Sakharov Prize network event in Brussels. November 23 2011.
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I extend my warm congratulations and I salute all winners of this year’s Sakharov Prize. This is a very special prize. Andrei Sakharov was a spokesman for the conscience of mankind in the words of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sakharov deeply believed in the need to take personal responsibility. So did you. You have you taken greater risks to stand up for dignity, human rights and democracy in these moments of historic transition in the Middle East and North Africa, and increasingly all over the globe. You are a symbol of resilience and strength for all of us.
Women want their voices to be heard. They want to exercise their rights. They want a seat at the decision-making table. They want to take responsibility for shaping the future of their families, communities and countries.
True democracy without the full and equal participation of women is impossible. Respect for human rights and providing for gender equality provide the necessary foundation for inclusive democracy.
Three quite basic requirements, when we come to think about it, are critical: First, obstacles that keep women from participating in electoral and transition processes must be removed. Second, women must have real voice so they can articulate their rights, needs, hopes and expectations. Third, democratic institutions have to be fully accountable to women.
From my own experiences, I know the challenges of the often arduous path to democracy and the rule of law. The empowerment and participation of women must be at the top of the agenda. Women’s rights must be formally acknowledged in the law and translated into concrete governmental and institutional reform.
UN Women stands ready, with the European Parliament and other partners, to support women’s empowerment, gender equality and the full participation of women in charting the futures of their countries. Let us work together to ensure that the momentum for gender equality and democracy stays strong. Let us individually and collectively live up to what Andrei Sakharov embodied: taking personal responsibility.
I thank you and wish you much success.