Closing remarks by UN Women Executive Director at the Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit

Closing remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS) in Sharjah

Date: Tuesday, December 5, 2017

[As delivered]

The past two days really have been a wonderful time for us to take the legacy of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel Report on Women’s Economic Empowerment a step forward and to implement the recommendations. One of those recommendations was to address the issue of women’s economic empowerment by working very directly with women entrepreneurs; building the bridge between entrepreneurs and the private sector; bringing the stakeholders together; building partnerships and addressing very specifically the issue of procurement; and increasing the number of goods and services that are supplied by women. Thank you so much for making this possible.

I also want to thank the Government of the UAE, and the leadership of all the different Emirates who played a role in making this such a wonderful event. It ran like a clock. No hitches, no glitches. What is wonderful about this event is that there was enough variety for us to be excited about the choice of the activities to attend, but not so big that there were difficulties with audience numbers. The balance here was just right, and the substance and the quality of the presentation excellent. 

Thank you so much to all of you presenters and moderators. I know that your good work reflected the quality of investment in preparation by all the presenters. And thank you to all of the sponsors who made it possible, who supported travelling, and the different inputs that were needed to make this conference possible. 

I want to highlight some of the sessions that have follow-up implications. I know that all of the sessions have a takeaway that we can implement when we are home, together and individually. 

We learned a lot about virtual learning and how education in the 21st century offers us many possibilities, with a real chance to make access to education universal for the first time. We connected the dots and we identified the gaps. We were cautioned about not being simplistic about how we will be able to use technology to address learning, but also were given ample ideas about what is available in the form of technology, to learn and teach, but also to bridge the world of learning and the world of work. 

We also learned a lot about violence against women. We had an opportunity to discuss the issue of violence against women, and last night we had an opportunity to “orange” Sharjah, and to highlight the fact that together we can make the world brighter for women and girls, and create a world where no woman or girl has to live with violence. Thank you so much also to the students who were there with us last night, who also added their flavour to the issue of highlighting the role of young people - boys and girls, young men and young women - in supporting the initiative of ending violence against women, and for the lovely gifts that they gave to us. So, Flag Island was lit orange, and that was truly special for all of us. 

We also learned about the importance of women’s technology in addressing entrepreneurship specifically. We were able to see how technology can play a role in the world of work and in the world of entrepreneurs - both in creating and marketing products, and accessing finance. It can increase the reach of our companies and enhance our profitability. We were able to learn from many entrepreneurs who are leaders in their field, who have already done what they were talking about. 

We discussed the Women’s Economic Empowerment Principles. We raised the bar by wanting to make sure that we truly increase the number of companies that will sign up to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, to make sure that by 2030 signing up will be a norm rather than an exception. In the same way, we also want companies that are able to procure from women to have become more of the mainstream by 2030, rather than an exception. We were able to hear about companies that have done much more than just signing up to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, and who are beginning to transform their own companies. 

We learned a lot about women’s procurement. We had a dream team from the private sector that presented to us, including suppliers that came with P&G, Ernst & Young and Citi. They shared with us the magic that could happen when suppliers, big companies, women and enabling organizations like WEConnect, work together. And again, there were practical examples of what we could be. 

As we speak now, we think we are ready to be strong implementers of Agenda 2030, and the many Goals that are relevant for its achievement. We are left with only 13 years before 2030, by which time we should have reached substantive equality. We are making the case and the argument that gender inequality is not an open-ended journey that we have to walk until my grandchildren are as old as me. This is a journey that has an expiry date. 2030 has been given by the Members of the UN as an expiry date to address a number of the challenges of the 21st century, and one of them is gender inequality and women’s empowerment. 

So, what would the world look like in 2030 if it lived up to our expectations? Violence against women will be something that is not a norm, but an outlier. Mainstream society would not tolerate gender-based violence, would not tolerate domestic violence, would not tolerate trafficking. Everywhere we would have mechanisms to make sure that these practices do not thrive. 

In 2030, we would want to make sure that equal pay is a norm. That there is not a company and an employer who underpays women. 

In 2030, we would want to see that there is political participation of women at every level from local government to state level to national government. And that the representation of women in decision-making in politics and the economy is entrenched as a way of life. 

By 2030, we want to make sure that access to an education for girls and boys—no matter who they are, no matter where they are, no matter whether rich or poor—is something they can take for granted. Because we have the mechanisms, technology, the will and the need to be able to deliver along those lines. 

By 2030, we would want to make sure that there are a lot of women who are procurement officers, and that therefore this one per cent of women who are able to sell to the private sector will be something of the past. 

In 2030, there will be a strong gender equality men’s movement, that believes in gender equality, men who will stand up and say: “I will never marry a child”; “I will never beat up a woman”; “I will not accept a pay cheque that is smaller than that of a woman who does exactly the same work”. Now we’re talking. “I’m not taking this cheque, take it back, Mr. Employer, give the woman the same amount.” That is what we want to see in 2030. Is that too much to ask, people? Is this rocket science? Can I have an answer? 

Is this too much to ask? 

Is this impossible to achieve? 

Now, let’s get back to work. We are here to make sure that 2030 will be different, and our grandchildren will say, “Grandma, is it true that they used not to pay equal salaries to women, really Grandma? Oh, my goodness.” Because this will be something that does not happen anymore. It is in our hands to achieve this. Thank you.