Speech: Let’s recommit to male allyship for concerted, inclusive action
Opening remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women Sima Bahous at the HeForShe Summit
UN Women and DESA´s recently launched SDG Gender Snapshot tells us that it may take close to 300 years to achieve full gender equality and the realization of women’s rights. I don’t think that any one of us here today would like to wait 300 years. So we must continue to drive forward.
Global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, violent conflicts, the climate emergency, and the backlash against women’s rights are further intensifying pressures on our progress towards achieving the sustainable development goals.
These challenges require a whole of society effort. They require women to lead and men as allies. They require a shift in a fundamental power imbalance between women and men. A more equal society is a more prosperous and peaceful one—that we know, for sure.
This Summit offers an opportunity to recommit to concerted action on the obstacles that stubbornly block women’s and girls’ realization of their full legal, economic, and political equality. It is the moment to mobilize men’s agency and responsibilities in the achievement of gender equality.
This is one of the crucial strengths of the HeForShe movement—to recognize the allyship of men in support of women´s empowerment. When men and boys recognize and acknowledge their privileges as males, it is a step towards acknowledging that women and girls face discrimination throughout their lifecycle.
I have three asks for men and boys around the world:
One: recognize the universality of what causes gender inequality. The pursuit of gender equality differs from one country to another. But the root causes of discrimination and inequality are the same across every society: unfair gender roles, normalized violence, and the undermining of women and girls. In every country, changing this is the work we must do together.
Two: challenge negative masculinities. This includes the pressure to display ‘macho’ behaviours. We often see negative masculinity in the form of the violence that shows up in the street, at home, at work, in schools and in public spaces, as well as online. We need role models that demonstrate positive masculinities, that showcase inclusive leadership and responsibility.
Three: take responsibility for sharing your platform. I ask you to be proactive in sharing the spaces that patriarchy has granted you so as to elevate and accelerate girls’ and women’s participation and leadership. I also ask of you to lead by example, to engage more men and boys, to be innovative in how you challenge the gender imbalance in your daily life.
Achieving full gender equality requires a profound shift in individual attitudes and behaviours, and it must include social progress for all groups in society. We must leave no one behind in our work. If we are able to do this—together—we will have more peaceful, just and sustainable societies.
Together, as allies, we can make this a reality across every aspect of our daily life.
Let’s act together, now.
I thank you.