Remarks of Michelle Bachelet at the International Women’s Day Commemorative Event at the United Nations


Remarks of Michelle Bachelet United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women at the International Women’s Day Commemorative Event at the United Nations.8 March 2013.

[ Check against delivery ]

United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon,
Excellency Ambassador Gérard Araud,
Colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning and a warm welcome to all of you on International Women’s Day.

During the past 20 years, we have witnessed critical gains in ensuring that women enjoy the same human rights as men, that women are treated equally.

We have moved forward with the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the ICPD+5 Key Actions for further implementation.

We have moved forward with the Platform for Action of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, the Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, its subsequent resolutions and all international human rights conventions.

My message today is: We cannot move backwards, we must keep moving forward. It is what we owe to millions of women fighting for their rights around the world.

We find ourselves at a tipping point in history.

Never before have we witnessed such global momentum and mobilization by men and women, girls and boys, demanding an end to violence against women and girls.

Never before have we witnessed such open, widespread public outrage and calls for change and action.

Never before have we had the instant and global outreach that new technologies afford—to record in mere seconds, and communicate in real time, the atrocities and horrors of violence committed against women and girls.

Violence against women is pervasive and knows no borders. It does not discriminate according to nationality, ethnicity, social class, culture or religion.

This is why women, men and young people have raised their voices in every region to say one thing: enough is enough.

People demand an immediate end to impunity. They insist on the protection of the rights of women and girls to live in dignity, free of violence and discrimination.

And let me say this: There can be no peace, no progress, no equality without women’s full and equal rights and participation. And there can be no gender equality without women’s realization. Women’s realization of their full reproductive rights, their right to sexual and reproductive health, are essential to the empowerment of women and to gender equality.

As social transformations in attitudes, beliefs, and values are happening, we must keep pace with the aspirations of people everywhere in the world. Their hope, our hope is to see gender equality become reality in this, our 21st century.

If we act with courage, conviction and commitment, we can change violence against women from being the most pervasive violation of human rights to being a rare occurrence that is considered unacceptable and no longer tolerated.

Each one of us has responsibility and duty to act. But there is a special duty incumbent on the international community and the Member States of the United Nations to show that we not only listen but support what people now demand.

Today I am pleased to announce that just as public awareness and outrage are rising, so too is the commitment by governments to action to end this violence.

Last November, UN Women invited Governments to announce new national action, and the COMMIT initiative was born.

Today on International Women’s Day, I am pleased to announce that 50 governments and the European Commission have committed to take concrete action to end violence against girls and women.

Many of them are here today and I salute them. I invite you to join me in expressing appreciation of their determination to act.

From Argentina to Australia, Brazil to Colombia and Denmark, Germany to Jamaica, Liberia to Thailand, from Slovakia to the Republic of Korea, countries have committed to take action. We just heard good news from the United States of America, where the Violence against Women Act was signed by President Obama, and from here to all regions of the world, governments have pledged actions to end violence against women and girls, and guarantee access to critical services and justice. Together we must keep the promise so women and girls can, one day, in this century, live free of fear and violence.

UN Women applauds these commitments. But we must do even more.

Right now, we are meeting at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. We have the historic opportunity to make strong commitments, to move forward to prevent and end these widespread human rights violations.

The 57th Commission on the Status of Women must uphold, and should advance, the full human rights of women. This is what women and girls all over the world expect from us!

We truly have to go the extra mile.

Today on International Women’s Day and every day, let us individually and collectively pledge to do all we can to promote and protect women’s rights so that every girl and women can live free of violence and discrimination.

Today on International Women’s Day and every day, let us go forward with courage, conviction and commitment.

I thank you very much.

Watch the archived webcast here: