This should be the beginning of the end of gender inequality - UN Women Executive Director

Opening remarks by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the launch event for UN Women’s Beijing+20 campaign, at the Apollo Theatre, New York, 26 June 2014.


Colleagues, friends,
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson,
Norwegian Minister of Defense Ine Eriksen Soreide,
Women and people of the world,
People of New York,

We are here to highlight the start of a campaign that commemorates 20 years since the world came together at the Fourth World Conference on Women.

We celebrate what is still the most comprehensive affirmation of women’s rights and empowerment adopted in 1995 by 189 governments.

To kick off this campaign, we are taking the UN outside of our offices and bringing it to the community where it will always belong, with the people. I thank you for joining us!

We are here at this historic Apollo Theatre for an evening of reflection, resolve, celebration and performance. Our goal is to rekindle the spirit of Beijing to re-energize all of us in our work to advance women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality.

The vision laid out in Beijing with 12 critical areas of concern for women still resonates deeply around the world. It is still unfinished business.

We need to do more to:

  • Reduce women’s share of poverty
  • Improve access to health and education
  • End violence against women
  • Ensure women’s full participation in decision-making
  • Ensure women’s equal opportunities in the economy
  • Remove gender stereotypes and increase women’s role in the media, and
  • Protect the human rights of all women and girls.

So this is our work-in-progress.

Today we mourn the loss of a human rights defender, our sister, Salwa Bughaigis, who embodied the vision of Beijing. She was assassinated yesterday in Benghazi, Libya. We condemn this murder. We will continue the work of Salwa, for the rights and the full participation of women in every country.

Since we kicked off this campaign online a few weeks ago, we have reached a global audience of 40 million people on social media.

Now we are calling on people in all corners of the world to join us over the next year to be engaged!

Our campaign has the title “Empowering women, empowering humanity: Picture It!”

Picture 5, 10, 15 years from now a world in which life is much better for women and girls and therefore better for humanity!  

In the 20th century and since the Beijing Women’s Conference, we have seen many changes in all parts of the world. Globally, 139 constitutions include guarantees on gender equality, 125 countries outlaw domestic violence, and 117 outlaw sexual harassment in the workplace.

Twenty years ago, 11 per cent of parliamentarians were women. Today nearly 22 per cent of MPs are women. Progress yes, but we need more and faster.

Twenty years ago, 40 per cent of women were engaged in wage and salaried employment. Today 48 per cent of women do. Progress yes, but too slow and too little.

Twenty years ago, less than 75 per cent of girls were enrolled in primary school. Today 90 per cent of girls are.

Twenty years ago, twice as many women died in pregnancy and childbirth. But still 800 women die every day and most of these deaths could be prevented.

Today the prevalence of female genital mutilation is declining but 30 million girls are at risk of being cut during the next decade.

Today all countries in the world have alarming figures on violence against women; one in three women in the world lives with physical and sexual violence.

Today all countries in the world have a pay gap between men and women and women continue to perform the vast majority of low paid and unpaid care work.

While progress has been made in the past century and the past 20 years, no country in the world has reached absolute and full gender equality.

We salute the countries that have made progress and all the efforts made by all nations. We salute the women of the world for their triumphs. We welcome men and boys as partners in this fight for gender equality –a fight they must own and give it their all.

I have no doubt this is a huge task but it is not a mission impossible. It is the mission of our time.

We can be 21st century game-changers! And together we can cross the line.

I remember as if it were yesterday the world coming together to end apartheid in my home country of South Africa.

If the people of the world from all walks of life from Presidents to CEOs to Sports people, Artists, Youth and YOU and ME do what the freedom-loving people of the world did for South Africa to help end apartheid, gender inequality will be history.

The date being contemplated by our Member States to aim to end this injustice is, and I quote:

To achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, we are setting our sights on this date of 2030. We are giving gender inequality an expiry date, by 2030.  

This should be the beginning of the end of gender inequality.

We launch this Beijing +20 campaign! This road map to 2030 with you here today, in the Apollo Theatre, in Harlem, to strengthen our collective resolve! Let us make this a reality!

I now invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy our video on the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Women’s Conference.

Beijing +20 the movie, directed by UN Women.

Related link:

Remarks by UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson at the launch of the Beijing+20 campaign