Message of Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women on the occasion of Human Rights Day. New York, 10 December 2011.
Today on Human Rights Day, we look back on a year of people marching in the streets to end injustice, inequality and tyranny and to demand their fundamental rights and freedoms. In 2011 we witnessed profound historical changes. In large numbers, women, men and young people came together to express their frustrations and opinions. They sought the comfort of camaraderie to voice their dreams and hopes for a better future, and their ideas spread through social media. In this, we witnessed a shift in the struggle to claim the fundamental rights and freedoms to which all human beings are entitled.
As we commemorate Human Rights Day with a focus on social media, we come to one inescapable and exhilarating conclusion. More people than ever before are able to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression without interference, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas because of social media. The ability to spread information and ideas is in the hands of anyone with a mobile phone or Internet connection. The ideas articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted 63 years ago today, can now spread further and faster than ever before.
In Cairo, after the initial uprising in Tahrir Square, I witnessed the power of ideas and social media when I met with young women leaders. They demanded dignity and their equal rights as they pursued freedom and democracy. They wanted an equal role for women in the transition and the new government. As we spoke and they held mobile phones in their hands, their views and reactions were amplified beyond our meeting room and shared with others around the world.
When I returned to Cairo to meet with youth leaders from across the region, it was inspiring to witness the historic launch of the Egyptian Women’s Union, comprising 500 non-governmental women’s organizations that mobilized women voters in the recently concluded election. Government derives its authority from the will of the people and democracy is strengthened by the equal participation of women and men.
Today the role of women in peace and democracy is heralded in Oslo as three women receive the Nobel Peace Prize: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, her compatriot Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen. These women join others around the world who, despite tremendous obstacles and great personal risks, pursue peace, democracy and equal rights.
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize sends a message that now, the 21st century, is the time for women’s full and equal participation at all levels of society. With this vision UN Women was created last year. And we will not rest until women and girls enjoy equal rights, opportunities and participation. We support justice that works for women and girls in all countries and we are encouraged by social media that carries the voices of freedom and justice for all.
- Social Media Voices for Freedom and Justice (Arabic version)