Remarks by Michelle Bachelet at the National Conference: “Morocco on the Path towards Equality”


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Remarks of Michelle Bachelet,Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women at the National Conference “Morocco on the Path towards Equality: Legal and Institutional Advances for Gender Equitable Public Policies, 8 March 2012, Rabat, Morocco.

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Distinguished Delegates,

Honourable Parliamentarians,

Leaders of Civil Society, United Nations colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is truly a pleasure to join all of you today to celebrate International Women's Day!

This is my first visit to Morocco and I would like to thank you very much for your warm welcome and gracious hospitality.

I extend my gratitude to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and the national Machinery for Women, for organizing this important national Conference. I am honoured to join the honourable Ministers and Governor here on this panel, and all of you, today in Morocco on the path to equality.

I join women in Morocco in solidarity for human rights, dignity and equality.

Looking back at the first year of UN Women, I thank everyone here for your efforts to advance women's empowerment and gender equality. I promise the highest commitment moving forward.

The creation of UN Women has coincided with deep changes in our world -from protests against economic inequality to uprisings for freedom and democracy in the Arab world.

These events have strengthened my conviction that a sustainable future can only be reached by women, men and young people enjoying equality together.

I understand that the revolutionary spirit has also strengthened the conviction of Morocco to strengthen equality for the people.

I congratulate the Government and people of Morocco for the current reform drive and the steps forward for women's empowerment, participation and equality.

Today, on International Women's Day I pay tribute to Morocco for the adoption of the Agenda for Equality from 2011 to 2015 as a national framework for the institutionalization of gender equality.

I commend Morocco for the organic law proposal which inscribes gender results budgeting as a basis for public spending. This is an extraordinary step for which the Ministry of Economy and Finance and Morocco should feel extremely proud.

I applaud the withdrawal of Morocco's reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the ratification of the Optional Protocol in May.

And I congratulate Morocco for the adoption of the new Constitution in July. The new Constitution gives supremacy to international conventions, acknowledges for the first time the diversity of Moroccan identity, and establishes the principle of equality between men and women across political, economic, civil, cultural and environmental spheres.The new Constitution of Morocco represents a unique opportunity to harmonize national legislation with international standards.

Today Morocco ranks among the top five countries in the Arab region with respect to women in Parliament with women accounting for 16.7 percent of Morocco's lower house following the 2011 elections. This increase of over six percentage points from the previous election was largely due to the new quota of 15 percent or 60 seats reserved for women and 30 for candidates under the age of 40, in accordance with a bill passed by the Council of Ministers in September.

Another important step forward is the advanced regionalization and sectoral convergence of public policies and service delivery, which should provide increased access of local basic public services to women.

The protection of women's equal rights in the civil sphere opens doors for women's civil society organizations to continue to push for citizenship and equal inheritance rights.

I also acknowledge the steps taken by Morocco to build a more open and inclusive economy that will equally benefit women. Against a backdrop of high prices for commodities and hence on public finance, your action to sustain public investment bodes well for the well-being of the people of Morocco. The four main priorities of institutional reform, job creation, sectoral reform with specific attention to justice reform, and enhancing the efficiency of service delivery hold great promise for the women, men and young people of Morocco.

I commend the National Human Development Initiative that aims to eliminate deficits in terms of human development, and targets the socioeconomic and territorial inequalities faced by the most marginalized populations, especially women in the rural areas and the most deprived populations in the urban and suburban areas, coming originally from rural migration.

I congratulate Morocco for the establishment of the Family Assistance Fund to help most vulnerable women, the ongoing reform of the penal code, and the ongoing law on domestic work. These represent great opportunities to mainstream gender into public policies and advance women's rights.

I congratulate Morocco for the principle of gender equality in rural areas, adopted by the Ministry of Interior, which abolished discrimination of rural women and gave them access to land.

The implementation of these changes and the election of a new parliament are important steps forward for equality, justice and democracy.

I would like to thank the Government for its strong commitment to gender equality and for the excellent cooperation established with the UN Women office in Rabat. In moving forward, UN Women stands ready to provide support together with the United Nations system and civil society to take your bold reforms forward.

This is especially important at the critical juncture where hopes are high. The need for action is urgent given gender gaps in employment, with unemployment rates far higher for young women (33 per cent) than for young men (22 per cent) and so many women engaged in vulnerable employment.

While progress has been made in breaking the silence about violence against women, we know that gender-based violence remains high. The 2011 National prevalence survey recorded that 62.2 per cent of Moroccan women are subjected to violence in their lifetimes.

I would like to take this opportunity to confirm that UN Women remains ready to support Morocco in areas that you request and that you deem a priority.

Today on International Women's Day, all of us at UN Women stand in solidarity with the women of Morocco.

Women's full and equal participation in the political and economic arena is fundamental to democracy and justice, which people are demanding. Equal rights, inheritance rights, and opportunity underpin healthy economies and societies.

UN Women will place special focus this year on advancing women's economic empowerment and political participation and leadership. We look forward to continued strong partnership with Morocco.

Today on International Women's Day, and every day, let us reaffirm our commitment to women's rights and move forward with courage and determination. Let us defend human rights, the inherent dignity and worth of the human person, and the equal rights of men and women.

I thank you.