Speech by Michelle Bachelet at Japan National Committee for UN Women

Date : 12 November 2012

Speech by UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet at Japan National Committee for UN Women. Tokyo, Japan, 13 November 2012.

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Good evening. I am happy to be here with all of you tonight. I have had a wonderful visit here in your nation of Japan.

I'd first like to thank and compliment the Japan National Committee for UN Women and its President Ms. Makiko Arima. I extend my best wishes and congratulations as you mark your 20th anniversary.

And I'd like to thank Miyagi Jo-Net for its rebuilding efforts after the earthquake with funds raised by the Japan National Committee.

I am so glad that all of you joined us tonight. And I pay tribute to the strength and resilience of the Japanese people, which all of us witnessed in the aftermath of the triple disaster in March 2011.

In the short time I have been here, I have already come across so many inspiring individuals and organizations- from high school students to corporate executives- that are embracing women's empowerment and actively working to move Japan forward.

I had the privilege to meet with Prime Minister Noda and Minister Gemba to discuss strengthening our partnership with Japan and building on the excellent work Japan is doing for gender equality, both at home and abroad.

I also had the privilege of participating in the lighting of the Tokyo Tower with Minister Nakatsuka and Director-General of the Gender Equality Bureau, Ms. Samura, to mark the start of the Eliminate Violence against Women Campaign Weeks. So now even the Tokyo skyline is calling attention to ending violence against women with its purple beacon.

Seeing first-hand how government leaders, women's organizations, and other concerned individuals are mobilizing to end violence against women gives great hope for the work that we do at UN Women. I commend Japan for the steps you have taken to combat violence against women through the Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality and legislation on domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence and trafficking.

Japan really shines as a partner in the international community's efforts to end violence against women and to advance peace, justice and equality.

During my visit, I also met with the Parliamentarian's League of UN Women to discuss the importance of women's political participation and reiterate the crucial role of parliamentarians in shaping laws and budgets that promote gender equality and women's empowerment.

UN Women has a universal mandate and we are working to advance women's political leadership, increase women's economic participation, end violence and discrimination against women, expand women's role in peace and security, and support plans and budgets that advance gender equality in countries.

Here in Japan, the business community has also emerged as a strong supporter of women's participation in the economy. My meeting with the Keizai Doyukai confirmed the commitment of private companies to revitalizing the Japanese economy. It also confirmed their recognition that they must take action to ensure women's equal participation and equal opportunities in the labor force. Japan has the largest number of signatories to the Women's Empowerment Principles to advance equal opportunities in the private sector.

I have seen how all sectors in Japan are working to advance gender equality and women's empowerment. And I would like to pay special tribute to the Japan National Committee for UN Women.

The Japan National Committee is our longstanding partner and I am grateful to the members of the National Committee for your commitment and support to UN Women.

This strong commitment can be seen in the ways you raise awareness of gender equality and peace and security, the ways you promote the Women's Empowerment Principles to companies and CEOs, and the ways you raise funds for important programmes for women in Asia and the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

This strong commitment is also seen in the way you mobilized last year after earthquake and tsunami to raise funds for those impacted heavily by the disaster. One of these groups was Miyagi Jo-Net, which I understand will show us some of their good work tonight.

Your excellent work as the National Committee for UN Women has been recognized by the Foreign Minister of Japan for your contribution to gender equality in the field of international development.

This work is so important because it is now well understood that women's empowerment and gender equality help make societies economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

Japan was a leading voice at this year's UN Commission on the Status of Women with its resolution on the role of women in natural disasters. The resolution draws on Japan's own experiences after the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake and makes a strong call for the empowerment of women in disaster risk reduction and management.

We welcome all of Japan's efforts to strengthen resilience in disaster-prone areas, including its sponsorship of the General Assembly resolution on international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in natural disasters.

I also commend Japan for making women's political participation a priority by co-sponsoring the resolution on women's political participation adopted by consensus last year by the United Nations General Assembly.

Japan is also a leader in promoting women's role in peace building and security sector reform as part of its contribution to achieving world peace. In particular, Japan's financial contributions and special assistance in reconstruction efforts in a number of countries following natural disasters or conflicts, including Haiti and Afghanistan, has been instrumental in assisting the countries in pushing towards a more stable and peaceful society.

In collaboration with partners, UN Women is currently supporting improved implementation of women, peace and security commitments in almost 40 countries. This includes support for strengthening women's peace coalitions and engagement in peace processes; work with peacekeepers to help detect and prevent conflict-related sexual violence; and support to build justice and security institutions that protect women and girls from violence and discrimination.

UN Women hopes to cooperate with Japan to set the bar for women's security in South Sudan and ensure that women are actively involved in carrying out the peace accord in Mindanao in the Philippines.

In my many missions to countries around the world, I witness the efforts of thousands of individuals, organizations and government leaders to make real and lasting change for women's empowerment in every aspect of their society. There are now countless studies that come to the same conclusion: Countries and companies with higher levels of gender equality also enjoy higher levels of performance.

Being here in Japan, I have seen the strength and the depth of your commitment to making gender equality a lived reality.

I thank you and look forward to continued and strengthened cooperation to improve the lives of women.