Message of UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on Human Rights Day

UN Women Executive Director urges the world to prioritize the protection of women's human rights


Today on International Human Rights Day, I call on men, women and young people around the world to join forces to protect the rights of women. And I pay tribute to those of you who are women human rights defenders.

Twenty years ago, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action emphasized that the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls is a priority for Governments and the United Nations. Important principles were reinforced, including the universality of human rights and the duty of States to uphold them.

Since then, an extensive body of legal standards and recommendations on women’s human rights has been developed. And much progress has been made in the adoption of national laws, policies and programmes to promote women's human rights and equality. 

The international women’s rights treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which is legally binding, has been ratified by 187 nations. 

Yet discrimination against women continues in law and in practice. Women human rights defenders are harassed and targeted with violence. And women throughout the world remain among the poorest and most marginalized. 

Today, on the final day of the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women, we are reminded that one in three women worldwide is still subjected to violence. That is nothing short of a global pandemic and a massive human rights violation. 

I urge you all to match words with action. It is time to match laws, policies and programmes to protect women’s rights with adequate budgets to ensure their implementation. 

As we count down to 2015 to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we know that greater progress depends on greater progress for women. 

I call on world leaders to prioritize women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality every day, and in the post-2015 development framework. 

On this International Human Rights Day, let us take inspiration from the example set by Nelson Mandela. Madiba showed us that none of us are free unless all of us are free. Our hopes for a more just, safe and peaceful world can only be achieved when there is universal respect for the inherent dignity and equal rights of all members of the human family.