“For women’s leadership to thrive, and for change to happen, all of us need greater courage and decisiveness” – UN Women Executive Director

Date: Friday, February 27, 2015

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Your Excellency, Ms. Michele Bachelet, President of the Republic of Chile,

Your Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations,

Your Excellency Ms. Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of the Republic of Lithuania.

Honoured colleagues and guests,

Let me first thank our hosts– President Bachelet, and the people of her warm and generous country.

President Bachelet, we continue to be inspired by your commitment, and by the actions you take every day towards achieving gender equality in Chile.

Let me also give a special welcome to you, Secretary-General for your support and keen interest in UN Women.

I welcome also my esteemed colleagues from the United Nations, civil society, government, and academia. I also recognize in particular Alicia Bárcena of United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) who has been so supportive of this initiative from inception.

There is no better reflection of the importance of this conference than the stellar cast assembled here in this beautiful city of Santiago de Chile. Allow me to thank you all for coming.

Our objective here is to discuss new, bolder action to fulfil the commitments made at the World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995; specifically how to increase women’s representation in leadership positions in all important bodies in society such as in government, multilateral organizations, the community, and the private sector.

There is already enough evidence in the world to show the positive impact of women's leadership. Women have successfully built and run countries and cities, economies and formidable institutions.

The Beijing Platform for Action calls for increased women’s presence in decision-making – not just in numbers, but in contributions. We know that this is not happening enough, and we know that there can be both overt and subtle resistance to women’s leadership. We also know the devastating impact of leaving things as they are. We know that for women’s leadership to thrive, and for change to happen, all of us need greater courage and decisiveness.

In the last 20 years, a disproportionate burden of change has been given to women’s organizations and civil society, who have the least power to make those changes. We need more initiatives from those with power and authority, who are voted and appointed into responsible office at all levels. We also need women to push each other forward.

We are facing a crisis. According to available data, it will be some 50 years before gender parity is reached in politics. Unless political parties take bolder steps. 

Today we want to decide how to make far-reaching progress within the period of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2015-2030. We must consider how this can be reflected front and centre of the post-2015 agenda.

Both climate justice and gender justice are a precondition for the success of the development agenda and humanity’s survival.

We need to demonstrate significant change by 2020. Today and tomorrow, we want you to guide us to take corrective steps in new directions.

Yesterday I attended a meeting with civil society in Chile. I called on a pregnant woman who was due to deliver her child in six weeks’ time. I reminded everyone that her unborn daughter will be 50 before her world offers equal political opportunity. And that baby will be 80 before she has equal economic opportunity.

We owe it to that baby girl to change that. We owe it to her to focus on making strong achievements in the first five years of the Sustainable Development Goals. We owe it to her to make good on those 20-year-old promises, so that we can look forward to solid progress by 2020 and gender equality by 2030, at the latest.

I am calling on everyone here today to take intense measures, and to frankly discuss what we can and must do differently. In this room we have an influential critical mass of people, who can share experience, give advice, and who when they return home, can accelerate action to make the post-2015 development agenda bold enough to achieve the future we want.

This year, on International Women’s Day on 8 March, we are marching in New York and in many other parts of the world, to call for Planet 50:50 by 2030.  I invite you all to come and participate.

Equality is the right of every woman, and every man. It is long overdue. Let us see it now.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honour to introduce our keynote speaker today, Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon.

As the presence today of many women leaders of the UN confirms, during his time as Secretary-General, he has appointed more senior women officials than in the entire history of the United Nations.

He is a relentless advocate for gender equality and women’s rights, and he is raising this issue in all his interactions at the highest level. He is our first HeForShe, leading men who are at different stages of standing up for gender equality.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.