UN Women Launch – Remarks by USG Michelle Bachelet

Date: Thursday, February 24, 2011

Speech delivered by Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet during the UN Women Launch Celebration held in the General Assembly Hall at UN Headquarters on 24 February 2011.

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues, Honoured Guests.

Welcome. It is a joy and honour for me to announce the official launch of UN Women. It took four years of hard work to realize the dream of millions of women and girls, to have a global “champion at the UN who can lead the efforts to translate their hopes of a better world into reality. And it has taken four months of hard work to shape that dream into a functioning UN organization.

I am very grateful to our Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General — and to all of you whose dedication and commitment have brought us to this moment.

The decision to establish UN Women reflects global concern with the slow pace of change. It is no longer acceptable to live in a world where young girls are taken out of school and forced into early marriage, where women's employment opportunities are limited, and where the threat of gender-based violence is a daily reality — at home, in the street, at school and at work.

The neglect of women's rights means the social and economic potential of half the population is underused. In order to tap this potential, we must open up spaces for women in political leadership, in science and technology, as trade and peace negotiators, and as heads of corporations.

As the Secretary-General said, supporting faster progress for women is not only morally right; it makes good political and economic sense.

This holds true whether we are talking about countries or companies. The World Economic Forum, which tracks performance on gender equality measures in 134 countries, reports a clear correlation between progress in gender and GDP per capita.

And a recent study found that Fortune 500 companies with the highest number of women on their boards were 53-percent more profitable than those with the fewest women board members.

Where women have access to secondary education, good jobs, land and other assets, national growth and stability are enhanced, and we see lower maternal mortality, improved child nutrition, greater food security and less risk of HIV and AIDS.

My own experience has taught me that there is no limit to what women can do — from those who support their families in the hardest of circumstances to those who become ministers of gender affairs, health, finance, foreign affairs — or heads of state. If we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we must do even better in tapping into women's strength, women's industry, and women's wisdom.

This is not an issue confined to any one group of countries or societies. It is a universal issue. We must convince all political actors — including ministers of finance and trade as well as health and education — that we are not only talking about rights, we are talking about social vitality, political stability, and economic growth.

UN Women alone cannot do what needs to be done. We will not replace the good work done by others; rather, we will harness the full capacity and comparative advantage of each, so that there is even greater impact and faster progress. We should all be doing more, not less.

In addition to our role of mobilizing, coordinating and leveraging the efforts of others, UN Women will focus on five areas:

1) Expanding women's voice, leadership and participation;

2) Ending violence against women;

3) Strengthening women's full participation in conflict resolution and peace processes;

4) Enhancing women's economic empowerment; and

5) Ensuring gender priorities are reflected in national plans and budgets, including capacity to support CEDAW reporting.

I am determined that UN Women will offer a new dynamic to the global dialogue on gender equality, and bring new energy, drawing on multiple talents, and bringing together men and women from different countries and communities in a shared endeavour.

Je suis déterminée à ce que l'ONU Femmes apporte une dynamique nouvelle au dialogue global sur l'égalité des sexes, avec une énergie renouvelée. En utilisant de nombreux talents, ONU Femmes parviendra à rassembler les hommes et femmes afin de réaliser notre vision d'un monde plus égalitaire.

ONU Mujeres ofrecerá una nueva dinámica para el diálogo mundial sobre la igualdad de género y traerá nueva energía a partir de múltiples talentos, reuniendo a hombres y mujeres de diferentes países y comunidades en un esfuerzo conjunto.

So tonight I invite you to celebrate with me. I hope that one day we will look back and see 2011 as a turning point, the beginning of a new era of gender equality and a better world for all.