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

Remarks by the Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet at meeting with African Civil Society Organizations

Date: 27 January 2013

Remarks by the Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet at meeting with African Civil Society Organizations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 27 January 2013.

[Check against delivery]

Dear leaders, friends and gender advocates,

I am very happy to be here with all of you today. It is wonderful to meet with representatives of Civil Society Organizations from throughout Africa.

I thank you for being here and I commend you for your work to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women. Your work has not gone unnoticed by the international community. We hold you in high esteem as partners—for your vision, courage and determination.

At UN Women, we count on partners like you. Achieving gender equality cannot be done by one organization, or by one government alone. It takes all of us working together.

And we must acknowledge once and for all that gender equality and ending violence and discrimination against women are not only matters of concern for women.

These are issues that can and should be taken up by everyone, by men, women and young people, as we work together to make our societies and democracies stronger and more sustainable.

When girls and boys can get an education, when girls can avoid child marriage, when girls and women can live free of fear and cruelty, and when women and men can enjoy equal rights and opportunities and lead together, families and societies are healthier, peace and democracy are stronger, and economies are more prosperous.

I commend you for the excellent work that you are doing to promote gender equality and women’s rights in Africa. You play a vital role in your countries to ensure that good policies and programmes are in place, to hold governments accountable.

We’re meeting at an important time: when the leaders of the 54 nations of the African Union are gathered to discuss a new direction for Africa, where policies and positions will be formed and Africa’s new development agenda defined.

This is an important anniversary for the AU, and all of us at UN Women celebrate the appointment of the first woman Chair, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

As Heads of State discuss Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance, the voices of Africa’s civil society must be heard.

As we approach the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals and embark on a post-2015 agenda, your contribution will reflect the vision of Africa’s citizens, men, women and young people.

Even though we have made progress on all development goals, there is still so much more to do if we want to reach stable, inclusive societies for all.

At the root of these challenges are deep inequalities. We need to eliminate these inequalities and move forward together towards sustainable development here in Africa and in the rest of the world.

The task ahead of all of us is to hold the line and ensure that gender equality is at the top of the policy agenda, at the center of the new global development agenda and here in Africa.

It is up to all of us to use the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the African Union to create a union that not only promotes, but actually prioritizes, the achievement of gender equality.

Increasing women’s political participation and leadership is of vital importance for progress on all fronts. Dr. Zuma has announced the AU’s commitment to an important goal: reaching gender parity in its employment structures, to ensure that women attain decision-making positions, and to advocate for women’s development across the continent on the platform of the African Women’s Decade.

I would like to submit to all of you that we go forward with a unified voice, taking advantage of the AU’s 50th anniversary, to call for 50-50 parity in Africa’s parliaments, and in government cabinets, as a goal for 2050.

To accelerate women’s participation, I am a strong proponent of temporary special measures such as quotas to create a level playing field. We will have a better chance of achieving our goals if there are more women leaders. Women have a vision. Women have a voice, and it needs to be heard.

We count on you to amplify the voices of women in your societies, to ensure that women and girls have equal opportunities and participation. This is especially important in the workplace and in the labour market.

Everywhere I go I carry this message: unleashing the full economic potential of women can boost economic growth, create jobs and opportunities and improve the lives of all citizens.

There is rising evidence that societies and economies grow healthier and stronger with the full and equal participation of women.

This is the finding of a growing number of studies from all around the world – from the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development, the United Nations, policy think tanks, and the private sector.

All of these studies point to the same inescapable conclusion: Removing barriers to women’s role and participation fuels economic development.

There seems to be an understanding and appreciation that an African Renaissance requires a leading role for women.

As African economies move forward, women can contribute to sustainable development and clean energy for all.

Let us make every effort to unleash the full potential of women and girls. Let us redouble efforts towards the eradication of all forms of gender- based violence and discrimination.

We will work alongside you to make sure that the right of very girl, every woman, to live free from fear of discrimination and violence is protected.

Sexual violence, female genital mutilation, and early marriages continue to deny girls the opportunities that should be theirs to build a bright future.

Violence against women and girls continues every day in every country around the world. We must end the impunity that allows these crimes to continue.

I congratulate Africa for sponsoring the first resolution adopted in the United Nations General Assembly this past December to ban female genital mutilation worldwide.

As we look ahead and prepare for the upcoming 57th UN Commission on the Status of Women, I strongly urge you to organize yourselves and present a common position on Violence Against Women with key recommendations.

I have called on all Heads of State and Governments worldwide, as part of the UNiTE campaign, to make strong commitments to end violence against women and girls. So far 16 countries have committed and one of them is Togo, the only African country to do so.

Let’s work together to try to get every nation in Africa to make a strong public commitment to end violence against women.

To facilitate cooperation, UN Women has established Civil Society Advisory Groups at the global, regional and national levels to create space for dialogue and engagement.

I welcome your ideas and perspectives on how these advisory groups can be organized most effectively in Africa. And I encourage you to use to use the extranet platform for online communication with other civil society groups.

I also encourage you to keep the channels of communication open with UN Women in your countries by taking part in the consultative processes held by our country offices.

UN Women will look to you for input and guidance as we work together to advance the African Renaissance agenda and our shared vision for the post-2015 Development Agenda and the coming 50 years.

There is great hope in Africa’s future. And you, as members of civil society, are a strong force behind the Pan-African vision. As you did in October, you continue to unify your voice and will tell the world your vision of the Africa you want.

UN Women looks forward to working with you to strengthen equality, justice and democracy.

I look forward to hearing your views on how we can better work together to achieve our common goals of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

I thank you.