"Women deliver for us all, now it is time for the world to deliver for women:” Lakshmi Puri

Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Remarks of Lakshmi Puri, Acting Head of UN Women at the Opening Panel of the Women Deliver Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28 May 2013

UN Women Acting Head Lakshmi Puri speaks during the Opening Panel of the Women Deliver Conference on 28 May. Photo credit: Women Deliver
UN Women Acting Head Lakshmi Puri speaks during the Opening Panel of the Women Deliver Conference on 28 May. Photo credit: Women Deliver

Good morning to all. It is such a pleasure to be here with you today! Thank you Norman for this introduction and thank you Jill for inviting us to this opening panel.

UN Women is very proud to be a co-sponsor of Women Deliver 2013. I would like to pay tribute to all of you – leaders, participants, activists, practitioners in the field and at all levels – to you, who everyday do more, bigger and better to deliver for women.

This conference must be more than just another meeting. We must make this a big movement, globally and in every country and community – a big movement for change.

Most of all, our meeting today is an inspiration for all women and especially for the 600 million adolescent girls in developing countries, whose hopes rest on what we can do going from here.

This forum is as much about what we believe, about priorities, about reaching the highest possible standards of health, including sexual and reproductive health, as it is about what we can do, and what we must do, for women and girls.

Governments have made commitments. There is the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. There is the Beijing Platform for Action. There are outcomes of review conferences, of the Commission on Population and Development, of the Commission on the Status of Women. Now is the time for action. That is what Women Deliver should push for — implement your commitments!

There has been progress in so many different areas, but there are still major gaps. We know that sexual and reproductive health still eludes so many women and girls today. Accessibility, affordability, sustainability, quality, accountability, and availability throughout the life cycle without discrimination continue to be major issues in so many countries.

And to see real progress, we need to address root causes. These include poverty, gender inequalities, harmful traditional practices and misinterpretation and misuse of traditions, customs and religion that hamper women’s rights.

As Jeni said in her presentation, there is an inextricable link between sexual and reproductive health and gender equality and women’s empowerment. Many factors affect maternal health outcomes—from women’s level of education to women’s participation in the labour market and in parliament. We need to address and promote them simultaneously.

The importance of education was mentioned earlier and so was women’s economic empowerment, political participation and leadership, ending violence against women, and creating gender-responsive institutions, national plans and budgets.

When you launch a rocket you need to make sure that all systems are go! We have to make sure that all systems are go to advance women’s rights and unleash women and girls’ full potential.

We need to improve health systems and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. And we need to improve the legal and justice system, the education system, the political system, and the labour market and financial system to deliver for women and girls.

These systems must deliver for all women and girls wherever they are and whoever they are – rural women, indigenous women, refugees and displaced women, older women, widows, women with disabilities, women living with HIV – they are all entitled to the fulfilment of their rights.

So we need structural change. We need a whole ecosystem of policies to be in place to create a virtuous cycle between higher sexual and reproductive health outcomes and the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The evidence that it works is here. Rwanda leads the world with the most women in parliament, 56 per cent; they have reduced maternal deaths by half in the past 20 years, are on track to reach all Millennium Development Goals and have made women’s empowerment and equality a priority. The very presence of female politicians has been shown to diversify the policy agenda and promote equity and justice.

In India and Nepal, we have also seen progress in health systems and their uptake, in girls’ education, in property rights, in social protection and more by having more women participate in local governments.

Ultimately, this is not a woman’s issue. It is a force multiplier for sustainable development, for economic growth, social cohesion and social justice, environmental sustainability, for peace and security and for human rights.

Looking ahead, we at UN Women are not only supporting the implementation of these commitments in partnership with the UN System, especially UNFPA, and with all of you. We are also looking at the agenda beyond 2015 and we propose a stand-alone goal on gender equality in the post-2015 development agenda.

We are calling for a gender equality goal grounded in human rights that pushes change forward in three critical areas: Ending violence against women and enhancing physical security; Expanding women’s capabilities and resources so that they have full choice and options; and Ensuring that women have a voice, leadership, that they can participate in public and take full part in public and private decision-making.

It is time to move sexual and reproductive health, women’s rights and gender equality from the sidelines to the centre of the frame, to the centre of all discussions.

Making women’s rights and gender equality a priority will improve the health of women and the health of our societies.

Women deliver for us all, now it is time for the world to deliver for women.

Related links:

To watch an archived webcast of Lakshmi Puri’s Remarks at the Opening Panel of the Women Deliver Conference, as well as for more information, visit:

Lakshmi Puri visits Malaysia, Japan and the Republic of Korea