“In 2030 we want to be able to talk about a world that has achieved gender equality” – UN Women Executive Director

Date: 09 March 2015

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Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

Thank you all for being with us at the opening of the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

My special thanks and welcome go to our newly elected Chairperson of the Commission, Ms. Kanda Vajrabhaya.

My thanks also to the UN Secretary-General and all the speakers who helped launch this 59th session.

I recognize representatives of civil society, representatives of the private sector, colleagues and friends.

I also want to greet the representatives of the Young Women & Girls Forum, who have shared their vision statement with us. We will, as you ask “ensure the voices of young women and girls remain at the centre”.

Excellencies,

Twenty years ago in Beijing, countries met with enthusiasm, optimism, and the expectation that we would be able to achieve gender equality by 2005.

The resulting Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is a comprehensive global blueprint for gender equality and women’s empowerment. It is firmly anchored in a human rights framework.

The Platform for Action has a perfect pedigree – inspired by both Member States and civil society. It is part of a cohort of international instruments and declarations, including Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. And it has been sustained through three previous Women’s conferences, in Mexico, Copenhagen and Nairobi.

The “Political Declaration” that you have just adopted reaffirms the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as your commitments to transformative action and increased investment. It welcomes the role played by civil society, which we appreciate. It confirms the expiry date of 2030 for gender inequality.

The Secretary-General’s report (E/CN.6/2015/3) evidences the world’s acute need for that expiry date.

Excellencies,

In preparation for this Commission’s work, 167 States prepared national reports. Some of the authors of those reports are here with us today. I thank you for a job well done. We have all benefited from the comprehensive review activities that you have undertaken. I thank governments, the United Nations system, civil society, and other actors at national, regional and global levels. I also recognize the invaluable contribution of the regional commissions who also conducted reviews, analysed the data and produced regional reports.

The emerging picture is highly complex.

Yes, much has been done, and much of it worthwhile.  However, what we chose to prioritize and act on has not led to irreversible and deep-rooted change.  

On a positive note, the undeniable legacy of the last 20 years is a changed normative landscape. Legislation has been passed in many countries to support all the critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action. Constitutions have been amended in compliance with CEDAW.

 What has not been done, however, is to change the attitudes that perpetuate the culture of male superiority and the stereotypes that diminish women.  This unfortunately has subverted the gains that the good laws can bring. There remains an unresolved clash between the modern laws and customary laws that has robbed us of the benefits of these good laws.  If we do not address this, our progress will always be compromised.  This is what we have to deal with now, once and for all.

The Secretary-General’s report shows that intersectionality has a significant impact on the way that women are able to benefit from the changes that governments and society bring.  This is something we have to address in a targeted manner.

The report shows that we must better address women affected by the intersection of aspects such as poverty, wars, financial and environmental crises.  Also, we must better serve indigenous peoples, disabled women and those marginalized because of their sexual orientation.  

Excellencies,

Progress is easiest to appreciate and to follow up with, where results are quantifiable.  And less so where change takes place in the fundamental power relations between men and women.  These results are less tangible, and in yet many cases far-reaching. The challenge is to address both the easily measured and the more complex. This is what we need to do now. Both are necessary. One without the other makes change easily reversed.

For the next 15 years, we will be working within the framework of a new development agenda. In order to achieve an integrated and universal agenda, we must ensure full coherence and data-informed linkages between social, economic and environmental policies. And we must pro-actively redress gender inequalities and achieve the empowerment of women and girls.  This is both a goal in itself, and a means of achieving all other goals. I thank you for your unwavering support for this stand-alone goal and the mainstreaming of gender equality in all other goals.

We must achieve substantial change within the first five years, and equality before 2030.  We must use the knowledge generated by our experiences to shape that future.

The reviews tell us unequivocally that we need urgent action and renewed, and much stronger political commitment.

We must transform discriminatory norms and gender stereotypes.

We must look beyond the “averages” to monitor the impacts and results of laws and policies for women and girls who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. Human rights are inter-dependent and indivisible.

Power relations between men and women must change profoundly for progress to be made. Men must be partners in the pursuit of gender equality, in their decision-making roles; as Heads of State, CEOs, religious and cultural leaders, and as partners and parents.

We must eliminate what the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls the “global epidemic” of violence against women and girls. Men and boys are key in the elimination of this most de-humanizing violation of human rights, which has gone on for far too long.

Men and boys are key in dismantling the patriarchy, which includes ending unequal pay, and saying no to marrying children.

We welcome the emerging work globally targeted to men and boys including the Barbershop Conference recently convened in this house. These efforts, like HeForShe, are means for men to promote positive masculinity. They are ways to build large solidarity networks, and strong leadership in this area.

The bold, brave acts of one head of state, one student leader, one young man, can lead far-reaching change, and changing the power relations between men and women.

Excellencies,

We must make the economy work for women. So that women can work for the economy. And take full advantage of the fact that empowering women empowers nations. Under-investment in women continues to be the biggest lost opportunity for nations to develop and flourish.

The review pointed out clearly the challenge presented by unpaid care work. There is a need to redistribute and reduce its burden so as to increase women’s access to paid work and educational and other opportunities.

Unequal representation in politics, economy and other areas is one of the leading problems of gender inequality identified by all countries.  

No country has achieved gender equality. This requires strong action.

Women must participate equally in all areas including conflict prevention and resolution, climate change negotiations, in community planning, in family decisions, in collective action. Temporary special measures have been an important tactic that must be replicated and expanded. Quotas can also support change in the private sector. We are pleased to welcome Germany’s announcement on this, joining Belgium, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and the Netherlands with a mandatory percentage of women on boards. This can be an important stepping stone towards 50-50.

Excellencies,

We must significantly increase investments to close the gender funding gap.

Civil society has been effective in supporting the implementation of the women’s agenda and deserves greater funding support in order to carry out its work.

Despite identification of the significant needs of women and the benefits women bring to the economy and society, under-investment and glass ceilings in the private sector remain common in most countries.

Women’s missions and international women’s entities like UN Women need further support.

Input needs to include domestic resources, including the private sector, as well as official development assistance.

We must understand and confront the growing conservative and extremist resistance to gender equality. We see this in ongoing attacks on girls’ education, women’s public participation and women’s control over their bodies.

We must make elected and appointed representatives more accountable to women. This includes countries, intergovernmental bodies and corporations.

There is a greater role for trade unions to influence employment conditions and economic opportunities for women.

There is a greater role for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to galvanize members of parliament to abolish the discriminatory laws that persist in many countries and to challenge political parties to engage with gender equality.

We need better data to monitor evidence-driven policymaking. We need more effective national gender equality machineries and greater efforts to make gender mainstreaming the standard strategy in government policymaking.

Women’s organizations must continue and further build their crucial role in advocating for, and monitoring progress in women’s rights. They must be supported and strengthened at all levels.

Excellencies,

Women’s rights are human rights. Human rights are women’s rights. This remains our mantra.

Those rights have been deeply compromised and require greater attention in the new development agenda. Without human rights including reproductive rights, there will not be meaningful gender equality. We have to take action now.

The social structure that favours men in society across every endeavour is a systemic failure which has far-reaching costs for society and the future of humanity. Evidence suggesting the importance of this continues to be ignored. This contradicts our stated development intentions.

Excellencies,

We can apply all that we have learnt to ensure that the future development framework delivers transformative change in the lives of all women and girls.

We are the first generation for whom ending poverty and realizing gender equality are within our grasp. We will need courage to do this.  We commend all the governments and those in civil society who have worked tirelessly for so many years to bring us to this point.

Now we are urging all governments and all partners to ‘step it up’.   

On 26 September, China, and UN Women will co-host a meeting for heads of state, attended by the Secretary-General, in which they will recommit to further action.  The host countries of former women’s conferences will also support this event.

We seek truly bold actions in order to see accelerated implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, so that in 2020, we can register far-reaching progress.

In 2030 we want to be able to talk about a world that has achieved gender equality. A 50-50 Planet.

You have laid out the issues in your national reports. You know where the gaps are. You have recommitted to action. This is encouraging.

Women are the solution to some of the biggest problems of growth, poverty, the sustainability of the environment, peace and human rights.

I urge you, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, friends and colleagues, to make substantial progress by 2020, and before 2030, to make a world where there are no barriers to women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Thank you.