Women leaders in Rio call for action to prioritize gender equality for a sustainable future


For immediate release
21June 2012

Media Inquiries:
New York: Oisika Chakrabarti, oisika.chakrabarti[at]unwomen.org, +1 646 781-4522
Rio de Janeiro: Gisele Netto, gisele.netto[at]unwomen.org, +55 61 8175 6315, +55 21 7817 1047

Call to action signed by women heads of state and governments at Rio+20

Rio de Janeiro, 21 June— At a high-level event today at the Rio+20 Conference, women Heads of State and Government signed a Call to Action with concrete policy recommendations on integrating gender equality and women's empowerment in all sustainable development frameworks.

Heads of State and Government join Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet to sign a Call to Action: The Future Women Want on 21 June 2012 during the Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo Credit: UN Women/Fabricio Barreto

Through the Call to Action they urged governments, civil society and the private sector to follow their lead and prioritize gender equality and women's empowerment in efforts for sustainable development. The Call to Action was signed at the Women Leaders' Summit on the Future Women Want, hosted by UN Women, in collaboration with the Government of Brazil.

“We know from research that advancing gender equality is not just good for women, it is good for all of us, said Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women. “When women enjoy equal rights and opportunities, poverty, hunger and poor health decline and economic growth rises. Advancing the equal rights of men and women creates healthier and more sustainable societies and economies.

At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 there was unanimous agreement that sustainable development cannot be realized without gender equality.

Yet today, women and girls continue to face the brunt of global challenges, through the feminization of poverty, hunger, disease and the burden of unpaid care work. At the same time, there is growing research and awareness that that advancing gender equality makes societies and economies healthier and more equitable and sustainable.

Moreover, sustainable development solutions, such as access to clean energy and safe water, can greatly improve women's lives by reducing poverty, freeing up women's time and protecting them from violence and adverse health and environmental impacts. For example, of the 2 million people who die each year from smoke from traditional cook stoves, more than 85 per cent are women and children.

At the Summit today, women leaders reiterated that sustainable development cannot happen without half of the world's population.

Signatories include: H.E. Ms. Dilma Rousseff, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil; H.E. Ms. Laura Chinchilla Miranda, President of the Republic of Costa Rica; H.E. Ms. Dalia Grybauskait, President of the Republic of Lithuania; H.E. Ms. Portia Simpson Miller, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Jamaica; H.E. Ms. Julia Gillard, MP, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia; H.E. Ms. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Denmark; H.E. Ms. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland; and H.E. Madame Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, President of the Swiss Confederation (signed on her behalf by H.E. Ms. Doris Leuthard, former President of the Swiss Confederation).


We, the undersigned Heads of State and Government, affirm that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are fundamental and catalytic to the achievement of sustainable development in its economic, environmental and social dimensions.

We reaffirm our commitment to the equal rights and inherent dignity of women enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international human rights instruments including the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as our commitment to the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the key actions for further implementation of the Programme of Action and the Millennium Declaration.

We recognize women's considerable and significant contributions to economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability as leaders, citizens, producers, consumers, entrepreneurs, workers, caretakers and providers of essential services in times of peace, conflict and political transition.

We are extremely concerned however that women and girls continue to disproportionately bear the brunt of today's global challenges and deepening inequalities, including through the feminization of poverty, hunger, vulnerability to conflicts and natural disasters, disease and the burden of unpaid care work.

We stress that the world has the knowledge, technology and resources required to change this situation. We underscore the urgency to address the many implementation gaps that allow these inequalities to persist and to undertake a paradigm shift towards fair, inclusive and equitable sustainable development that puts human beings at the center, and benefits women and men equally.

The Future Women Want is a world that is healthy, free from hunger, fear, violence and poverty; a world that prioritizes equity, human rights and gender equality, where women and men, girls and boys have equal rights and opportunities and equal access to resources, education, healthcare, employment, leadership and decision-making; a world where women constitute a dynamic force for realizing the benefits of sustainable development for present and future generations.

We therefore call upon all States to:

Fully integrate gender equality and women's empowerment in any international development framework that may be adopted in the future, including as a stand-alone development goal and through the inclusion of gender-sensitive targets and indicators in all other goals;

Take urgent measures, including temporary special measures, to accelerate women's full and equal participation in governance at all levels and women's leadership in all decision-making;

Ensure that all policies, laws, budgets and investments pertaining to sustainable development are gender-responsive and integrate the social, economic and environmental dimensions;

Eliminate all discriminatory barriers faced by women, including rural women and women in situation of vulnerability, and take proactive measures to address the factors preventing women from equally accessing, owning and managing productive resources and assets and from contributing to and benefiting from the opportunities provided by sustainable development policies and programmes, including employment opportunities, and;

Take urgent measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by women, including the right to sexual and reproductive health, to eliminate gender-based violence and to provide universal access to essential services such as health, education, justice, energy, safe drinking water and basic sanitation, transportation, communication, security and social protection.

Provide the necessary financial resources to implement the actions in this Call and advance gender equality and women's empowerment in sustainable development.

We further pledge to:

Use our leadership positions to advance gender equality and women's empowerment in the context of sustainable development in our respective countries and internationally, carrying this vision forward here at Rio+20 and beyond;

Fully support the commitments on gender equality and women's empowerment contained in the outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference the Future We Want;

Continue to support the work of UN-Women in its normative support functions and operational activities and in leading, coordinating and promoting the accountability of the UN system for gender equality and women's empowerment.

We call upon every citizen, community, business and political leader to respond to this Call to Action and join us in urgent action to promote gender equality and women's empowerment in sustainable development so that the Future Women Want becomes the Future We All Share.

Media Contacts:

  • In Rio de Janeiro: Gisele Netto, Ph: +55 61. 8175. 6315, +55 21. 7817.1047; E-mail: gisele.netto[at]unwomen.org
  • In New York: Oisika Chakrabarti, Ph: +1 646.781.4522; E-mail: oisika.chakrabarti[at]unwomen.org

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