UN Women - United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

Speech by Michelle Bachelet at Sakai Women’s Center

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Date: 12 November 2012

Speech by UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet at Sakai Women's Center. Sakai, Japan, 14 November 2012.

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Good afternoon. I am pleased to be here today with all of you.I would like to thank Sakai City for their strong support of UN Women Japan Liaison Office since its establishment in 2009.

I also would like to extend my deep appreciation to Sakai City Mayor Osami Takeyama, Sakai City Board of Education Officials, Council Chairperson Toshifumi Yoshikawa, other council members, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Osaka Liaison Office, the WEPs supporting companies gathered here today, especially Mr. Kanji Maeda of the Sakai Chamber of Commerce, various organizations that always cooperate with UN Women from the perspective of gender equality and last but not least, Ms. Noriko Yamaguchi, special advisor of UN Women Japan Liaison Office and representative of the Sakai City Women's Organization that is a consistent supporter of the liaison office, and Ms. Sumiko Takiguchi, Manager of the Sakai Women's Center.

I pay tribute to the excellent work being done by the Women's Center to provide training to women of all ages. I extend gratitude to the Sakai Women's Center and Sakai City for its warm hospitality to the UN Women Liaison Office in Japan.

This has been a wonderful visit to Japan. I had the honour to participate in the impressive Tokyo Tower light up ceremony to call attention to the importance of ending violence against women and girls.

I had the opportunity to meet with Government officials and discuss our important partnership and ways to move forward together.

I have also met with leaders from the private sector. Japan is a leading partner of the Women's Empowerment Principles to advance women's empowerment and opportunity in the workplace. I acknowledge the presence of leaders here today and I thank you for your leadership.

Since I arrived, I also had the privilege to experience a tea ceremony at the Shibuya High School. I understand that Sakia is one of the main centres of the tea ceremony in Japan (Sen no Rikyu).

I have truly enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of Japan and learning more about your culture. Thus I would like to express my gratitude to the Government and people of Japan. I thank you for your support to UN Women and look forward to strengthened collaboration.

There are so many areas for working together. We are working together to end violence against women and girls. In fact, I have learned that the Mayor of Sakai City was the first mayor in the world to sign on to the Say No to Violence against Women initiative. On behalf of UN Women, I express deep gratitude.

In my travels around the world, I have met many government leaders and officials, and religious and community leaders, and men and women and young people who are working hard to end violence against women.

There is growing momentum. More than 125 countries, including Japan, have laws in place to tackle domestic violence. Japan also has laws in place legislation to tackle trafficking and sexual violence.

In every region, the struggle for equality continues.

From Japan to Germany, from Malaysia to Mexico, from Tunisia to Tanzania, in every country, women, men and young people continue to stand up for freedom, equality and democracy.

We can all take pride in the barriers that were broken at the Summer Games in London. For the first time in the history of the Olympics, women competed from every participating nation and in every sports category. All 204 competing nations had women on their teams. This set a new world record.

The world of sport is an important and inspiring part of our wider world.

I am very happy to be here today with the Nadeshiko Japan Little League women's soccer team. And I am proud to announce that UN Women is joining forces with the International Olympic Committee to promote women's participation in sport and the empowerment of women through sport.

UN Women and the IOC will use this partnership to promote joint messages on gender equality during International Women's Day next March and the Olympic Day on the 23rd of June. We will also engage with other sport associations such as FIFA, the International Swimming Federation and the Youth Olympics to profile global social issues around gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.

Our joint advocacy will promote gender equity in sport as well as using sport to advocate for gender equality in communities. There is compelling evidence reflecting the relationship between sport participation and increased self-esteem and leadership skills.

Sports programs can enhance the empowerment process by challenging gender norms, reducing restrictions and offering girls and women greater mobility, access to public spaces, and more opportunities for their physical, intellectual and social development.

Sport can also provide girls and women with powerful role models, an expanded sense of possibility, and leadership skills and experience that they can use throughout their lifetimes.

Watching female athletes participate in high-profile sporting events, such as the Olympics, can transform male and female perceptions of the capacities of girls and women. An Olympic medalist or world champion stimulates national pride, unity and a sense of accomplishment. When the athlete is female, she provides a visible demonstration of what is possible for women to achieve.

Women all over the world deserve a level playing field.

This is true in the world of sport and also in the workplace.

As I mentioned earlier, Japan is a leader for the Women's Empowerment Principles. Of the 466 signatories, 157, or one-third, have been collected from Japanese companies. This is really wonderful.

Now that there is such a strong base of support for the Principles within the Japanese business community, we look forward to strengthening our collaboration to encourage those companies that have signed the Statement of Support to take concrete steps towards integration and implementation of the 7 Principles.

It would be great to see more companies in Japan using the principles as a framework to analyze existing policies, practices and initiatives and a source of inspiration to create new initiatives.

By setting concrete benchmarks and targets and establishing monitoring and reporting frameworks, companies can track and assess progress. We would also like companies to share progress reports with us so we can capture good practice examples to share with others.

We hope that by this time next year at least 25 per cent of participating companies will have begun to report on their progress.

All over the world, we are making progress. And we know that equality is not something that UN Women, or any institution can achieve alone. Equality depends on each and all of us. From the government that changes its laws, to the company that advances equal pay and equal opportunity, to the mother and father who teach their daughter and son that all human beings should be treated equally, to the athletes who demonstrate equality and excellence.

We are all part of the solution and UN Women looks forward to working with all of you.

I thank you.