Press statement by Michelle Bachelet at Nippon Press Centre,Tokyo, Japan

Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Press statement by Michelle Bachelet at Nippon Press Centre, Tokyo, Japan. Tuesday, 13 November 2012.

[Minasama, Konnichiwa] Good Afternoon, Thank you very much for being here this afternoon.

This is my first visit to Japan as the UN Women's Executive Director and this is a visit I have been looking forward to very much.

I express my sincere appreciation to the Government and the people of Japan for your leadership in multilateralism, international peace, sustainable development, and human security. This leadership has remained firm and strong, even through hard and trying times for the people of Japan.

I am inspired by your determination and resilience. The resilience of a country and above all that of its people in the wake of a terrible earthquake and tsunami. We all have much to learn from you.

You have a proverb that says “Japan is the land where dawn doesn't break without a woman. I would like to thank Japan for being a strong supporter of the United Nations, a good friend to UN Women, and for promoting gender equality worldwide. I thank you for your support to UN Women and look forward to strengthened collaboration.

Advancing women's equality and empowerment offers real hope for the future. When women enjoy equal opportunity and participation, societies and economies grow healthier and stronger.

This year I have three top priorities for UN Women: Advancing women's political participation and leadership, expanding women's economic opportunities, and ending violence against women and girls.

I commend Japan's leadership in advancing women's political participation and leadership. Last year Japan co-sponsored the General Assembly Resolution on Women's Political Participation, and UN Member States adopted it by consensus. The resolution calls on all countries to increase the number of women in all levels of political decision-making, which is essential to achieve equality, sustainable development, peace and democracy.

Today women constitute half the population, yet they remain under-represented in positions of leadership. Today women constitute just 20 percent of parliamentarians globally and 13.4 percent of the parliamentarians here in Japan.

UN Women is a strong proponent of temporary special measures, such as quotas, to achieve at least 30 percent of women in parliament, in line with international agreements. We need more women leaders working alongside men to make societies economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

Women also need equal economic opportunities. When women can participate fully in the economy, economic recovery is faster and economic growth is higher and more sustainable.

It is time to remove the barriers that hold women and economies back. Today women's wages represent between 70 - 90 per cent of the wages of men in most countries, and women in Japan earn about two-thirds of the income earned by men.

Furthermore, it is estimated that over 60 percent of the women employed in Japan leave the workforce after their first child. Losing so many women workers when they become mothers is putting the brakes on growth and productivity.

By promoting equal pay for equal work, equal opportunity, and policies to reconcile family and work responsibilities such as childcare, women can play their full role in the economy. I commend the progressive movement of “Iku-men—men or husbands actively engaged in child rearing.

Increasing the female labor participation could translate into a huge economic potential for the Japanese economy. Almost 3.4 million women are willing to work, but are not part of the labour force. If these women were included, it is estimated that Japan's GDP could increase by 1.5 percent.

Policies to boost women's employment offer hope for the future and they are especially important given Japan's aging population. With women aged 80-89 projected to be the single largest age group in Japan by 2060, policies to support working women and full employment will help fund pensions and social security so that older persons can live in dignity.

Studies show a correlation between gender equality and economic performance.

I commend the Japanese companies, more than 150 already that have signed onto the Women's Empowerment Principles to advance women and equality in the workplace. I hope private sector initiatives from Keizai Doyukai of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives setting a target of 30 percent women managers is duplicated by others. I also hope more private sector leaders here in Japan will sign onto the Women's Empowerment Principles.

Last night I had the honour to attend the Tokyo Tower event sending out a purple light to end violence against women and girls. This violence is universal and stains all countries. Here in Japan it is estimated that, one in three married women have experienced some form of physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime.

UN Women is working with countries worldwide to prevent and end violence against women. I commend Japan for its national policy on gender equality, which contains measures on violence against women, and also for specific legislation addressing domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and trafficking. I also commend Japan for initiatives such as the efforts being taken to provide women with services and train police, judicial and immigration personnel to deal effectively and sensitively with women who have suffered violence so they can obtain justice.

I commend Japan's role in promoting peace and security, and women's full role in these efforts, and for financial contributions and special assistance in reconstruction efforts following natural disasters or conflicts such as in Haiti and Afghanistan. I thank the people and Government of Japan for your commitment to peace, justice and equality. Thank you. And I look forward to answering your questions.