“Gender equality is also smart peacebuilding” – Executive Director

Speech by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka during the Peacebuilding Commission High-Level Ministerial Event, New York, 26 September 2013


Madame Chairperson,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
And my distinguished panel members,

Allow me to address you in a straightforward way. 

Think just for a moment that you are a woman living in conflict. You have suffered serious harm and pain. You have been a fighter, or maybe a peace-maker. 

You may have children. You may have lost a male breadwinner. You and your children may have been displaced.  

Your views, your experiences of the conflict, and your specific needs for recovery—for land, for a voice in decision-making, for justice for the abuses you suffered—were probably not heard during the peace negotiations.

Your first priority is safety for your family and yourself. 

Your second priority is feeding your family. How are you going to do this? In many contexts you cannot claim the land and productive resources of a deceased male partner. Inheritance laws may assign this property to the relatives of your husband, not to you.  

You may find yourself caring for orphans or elderly and heading a household. 

What can you do? Look around you. 

Employment and livelihood programmes may leave you behind because they do not take into account restrictions that women face in mobility, time and lack of collateral.  

You all know what this means for many families. Women and their children are forced into informal, low-pay and sometimes dangerous work. 

Why is there is such low investment after conflict in jobs for women, land for women, and venture capital for women’s enterprises? 

It is because WOMEN ARE NOT VISIBLE.  

They need to be at the peace table. They must be in the donor conferences and post-conflict meetings where priorities are set. 

The work of women is vital to recovery.

It should not be invisible. It should not be unpaid. It should be recognized and properly funded.

The international community needs to do much more, and needs to work faster, to ensure that women’s livelihoods are central to immediate recovery and to long-term peacebuilding.  

Recent research by UN Women and UNDP shows that economic recovery is one of the lowest performing sectors for women in post-conflict situations. 

 By failing to invest in women, we undermine prospects for immediate family well-being and long-term peacebuilding. 

When women have a stable income, they are more able to take care of their families and participate in decision-making. When more women are involved in public life, there are pay-offs that matter enormously for peacebuilding. 

Women’s political participation is associated with lower levels of corruption, more inclusive decision-making, greater investment in social services, job creation for women, and family welfare.  

The Secretary-General’s Seven Point Action Plan on Gender-Responsive Peacebuilding has a purpose: to ensure that women’s voices are heard and their economic recovery needs are met. I urge you to support its full implementation.

Last year’s World Development report told us that Gender Equality is smart economics. Today I submit to you that gender equality is also smart peacebuilding.

You are the Peacebuilding Commission. Women are one of the greatest peacebuilding resources available. 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Please, commission women to build peace. Give them the resources, the opportunities, and the services they need to rebuild their lives and incomes. They will do the rest. Thank you.

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