“We have identified men and boys as critical contributors to the struggle for gender equality” – Executive Director

Opening remarks by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the launch of the HeForShe campaign in Stockholm, Sweden, on 18 June 2015.


[As delivered] 

Thank you so much for this warm welcome. Thank you, Prime Minister, for your kind and inspiring words about Sweden and about the women of the world. Dr. Denis Mukwege, thank you so much for being here and for the excellent work that you do.

Ministers, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

I want to start by thanking the Prime Minister of Sweden for his leadership, for taking on HeForShe at a personal level, and for explaining so eloquently Sweden’s commitments in supporting gender equality. I also want to thank the people and the taxpayers of Sweden for investing in women, in UN Women, and for supporting the global cause for women’s empowerment.

We are asking leaders, when they adopt the HeForShe campaign, to choose the personal commitments they will make, in addition to the work that they would normally do in office. We are asking them also to report on these commitments, so that we are able to share that information with other countries and communities who are facing the same challenges.

We want to thank you for choosing to champion engendered financing through the Financing for Development process, and for ensuring that the upcoming July discussions in Addis Ababa will put the issue of gender financing right at the centre of the agenda.

We indeed recognize that for gender equality to be achieved the implementation of policies is important, but the investment in the success of those policies is critical. In the 20 years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, policies were adopted, but their implementation has been patchy and uneven.

We are hoping to change that through the post-2015 agenda.

We also recognize the importance of diversifying the constituency that is taking responsibility for gender equality. We have identified religious institutions, leaders and communities. We have identified young people. We have identified private sector leaders. And we have identified men and boys as critical contributors to the struggle for gender equality.

Historically, women have been standing outside the door, knocking to get in, and fighting for adequate representation. What we are saying with HeForShe is that women must continue to fight those battles because they are legitimate and important. We are also saying that women must not be doing that alone. A larger pool of society needs to stand with women to champion the cause of gender equality.

It is the penholders, the men who are making decisions, who are on the other side of that door. Men must open the door so that women do not have to break it down. Men must remove the glass ceiling so that women do not have to break it. Men must say: ‘I will not marry a child’. Men must say: ‘I will not hit a woman’. And men, brothers and uncles must say: ‘my cousin, my sister, my daughter will not experience female genital mutilation on my watch’.

We want to present an alternative to the kind of masculinity that has dominated the world. To enshrine in the minds of society the importance of positive masculinity. We are therefore presenting men, such as the Prime Minster and Dr. Mukwege, so that people will not say that there are no positive examples to look up to. And we see the importance of multiplying those examples.

We are at the same time bringing uninitiated men into HeForShe. Not everybody who joins HeForShe is ‘a good dude’, as the children would say. We are also taking ordinary men – whose intentions about gender we don’t even know – at a grass-roots level because we want to engage them, work with them, and work on them to bring about change. That is why reaching out to young people is also important.

Today, however, we are highlighting our entry point at a senior level – those who are already in leadership positions.

The initial countries that we have identified for our IMPACT 10X10X10 programme are: Finland, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, Malawi, Romania, Rwanda and Sweden. Their Heads of State have committed to action in key areas, including: violence against women, equal pay, the representation of women in senior leadership positions, women’s economic empowerment, and the changing of laws to facilitate women’s participation in the labour market. There are also commitments to address the issue of women’s unpaid care work. Malawi will focus specifically on ending child marriage.

We have also identified the corporations whose leaders have taken the baton, which include: AccorHotels, Barclays, Koç Holding, McKinsey & Company, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Schneider Electric, Tupperware Brands, Twitter, Unilever and Vodafone.

We invite you to help us monitor the commitments of all IMPACT 10X10X10 champions so that we ensure they are achieving their targets.

We thank you so much Prime Minister for being at the leadership of this campaign and we look forward to the progress that we are going to make together.

Thank you.