“The issues at stake for women and girls around the world are far too important and far too urgent”—Lakshmi Puri

Address by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the Gender Equality Assembly, Gender Equality and Urban Equity: Contributing to the Post 2015 Development Agenda, during United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development


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Ladies and Gentlemen,
Friends and colleagues,

Let me start by thanking the co-organizers of this Women’s Assembly, Ms. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General of UN-Habitat, and Jane Peterson, the Chairperson of the Huairou Commission, with whom our long-standing partnership has strengthened over the last three years, during which we have jointly taken every opportunity to build the momentum for consolidating an agenda that draws on the gender equality compact of the Sustainable Development Goals, and to ensure that in its implementation, it delivers for all women and girls.

Special thanks to the grass roots organizations, in particular the host organizations for their warm welcome, hard work and engagement in this session of Habitat III.

The preparatory process towards Habitat III has been quite a journey. From the seventh version of the World Urban Forum to the various meetings of the preparatory committee of the Conference, the regional and thematic meetings and all the discussions and movement building around the New Urban Agenda, together we were able to support Member States in the negotiation of this new text, ensuring that it addresses the critical issues of transforming gender relations; promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights; as well as eliminating violence against women and gender-based wage discrimination, and the unequal participation in public and private decision-making.

In our constant interaction with the Habitat III we were also able to promote this to become a good practice of a gender-responsive International Conference. In doing so we secured the Women’s Assembly to transition from being a side event to the mainstream of the formal agenda with its outcome included in the formal report of the Conference.

Also, women have been in the leadership front lines of the intergovernmental negotiations of this new agreement. The two female co-chairs, Maryse Gautier, General Auditor at the Ministry of Ecology in France and María Duarte Minister of Housing and Urban Development of Ecuador, as well as the co-facilitators, Ambassadors Lourdes Ortiz Yparraguirre of the Philippines and Ambassador Dámaso Luna Corona of Mexico, played a great role in guiding the process forward and in ensuring that a gender-responsive outcome is submitted before Member States for adoption next Thursday.

The efforts that we have seeded, together with the women of the world and the gender equality advocates, have sprouted in a text that celebrates and welcomes. The New Urban Agenda is very timely and contributes to further strengthening the gender equality commitment of the SDGs. Yet the challenge now is ensuring its effective gender-responsive implementation.

But what does gender-responsive implementation of the New Urban Agenda actually mean?

Integration and prioritized mainstreaming: Gender-responsive implementation means that in this increasingly urbanized world, systematic, integral and comprehensive attention to gender equality priorities and the needs of women and girls in urban development policies and planning is a must. The transformative and ambitious approach of the New Urban Agenda requires bold gender mainstreaming efforts to ensure capacities are in place for the urban sustainable development policies and programmes to deliver for all women and girls.

Removing discriminatory laws and norms: Gender-responsive implementation of the New Urban Agenda requires the removal of discriminatory laws and customary practices that undermine women’s fulfillment of their human rights.

Leadership and governance: It also means fostering greater democratic and decentralized governance yet this will only be possible by ensuring women participate fully in decision-making in the public and private sectors, including at the local level. This is a significant challenge as not only do women continue to be underrepresented in local governments, but it is also at the local level where the gender gap is widest.

Inclusion and movement building: We need to be creative and find innovative strategies to reverse the systematic marginalization of women from decision-making and ensure the strategic representation of different groups of women in all sectors and at all levels, including the local level. Enhancing women’s voice is critical for influencing public priorities and spending patterns to ensure adequate provision of services as well as economic and social security, and to guarantee their physical integrity and reproductive rights.

Knowledge revolution and accountability: We need a gender data and statistics revolution within the city—the base unit. There needs to be a value chain of knowledge, data generation and use, and monitoring of progress. We need to promote building the national and local statistical capacity to bridge the gender gap as the test to measure the political resolve to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and make real impact on the lives of women and girls.

Financing and investment: Another vector of the gender-responsive implementation is significantly increased investment to close the gender gap. So we need to tackle the limited capacity of local governments to finance gender equality and to deliver gender-responsive services. If adequately resourced, the Agenda has the potential to be a game changer for women and girls and realize the transformative vision of the gender equality compact of the SDGs. Yet to do so, the chronic and persistent underinvestment in gender equality at all levels and especially at the local level, must be reversed. Therefore, harnessing all sources of financing—public, private, national, international and innovative—to deliver on gender equality and to generate the capacity for gender-responsive planning and budgeting, including at the local level, is critical to bring the gender equality goal to fruition, while ensuring that no woman or girl is left behind and that those most marginalized and facing compounded discrimination and violence are reached first.

Institutions as drivers of implementation: Gender-responsive implementation also means ensuring strong, empowered gender institutions / machineries are in place at local level and that all local level SDG related and sectoral institutions are (en) gendered - health, education, skills development and entrepreneurship, etc. to ensure that the promises of the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the gender equality compact of the 2030 Agenda become the reality for all women and girls.

Multi-stakeholder project: Gender-responsive implementation also means making a strong call to action to all our partners - CSOs, academia, socially accountable and gender-responsive private sector, faith-based organizations, the youth movement - all have to join at the urban level.

Advocacy and outreach to the non-traditional gender constituencies. That is what has inspired our advocacy campaigns like “HeForShe”, “Planet 50-50 by 2030 – Step it Up for Gender Equality” and the “UNiTE Campaign to End Violence against Women”. We have launched the Youth and Gender Equality Strategy with its LEAPs Framework, which calls for: Strengthening young women’s Leadership; promoting Economic Empowerment and skills development of young women; and taking Action to end violence against young women and girls. Additionally, our framework has three P’s that make the case for promoting Participation, voice, and partnerships with young women and their organizations, Partnerships with young men, and intergenerational Partnerships to achieve gender equality. Linking youth with the women's movement and gendering of the youth movement are important in urban spaces.

It is critical to draw on these efforts and many others available on the ground, to enhance social mobilization and awareness-raising, public debate and outrage against inequality, discrimination and violence directed at half of humanity.

Let me emphasize, we have an important wealth of experience on gender programming to draw upon on the way forward. The NUA provides a unique opportunity for many more cities to benefit from the tools, practices and approaches developed under UN Women’s “Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces” Global Flagship Programming Initiative, for example, to ensure that women and girls can live free from violence and fear, and realize their full potential.

In poorer communities, UN Women’s assistance centres on the practical dimensions of improved livelihoods and stands as a direct route to empowerment.

We have also engaged men and boys in preventing violence against women. We have worked with the Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre, to train 3,000 local leaders, men and women, on women’s equal value and rights, and men’s roles in upholding them; and in northern Ethiopia, UN Women assisted in training for leaders of the Orthodox Church to put them at the forefront of changing minds and norms among congregants. Priests are now equipped to provide counselling to prevent violence against women and to assist survivors.

UN Women responds to Syria’s humanitarian crisis on the ground by offering training and essential legal, health and other services to women in refugee camps and has helped bring Syrian women together so their voices could be heard, loud and clear, in the ongoing peace talks.

For the peace negotiations to resolve Colombia’s long internal conflict, UN Women has rallied women to claim their right to participate; we have also provided evidence on gender considerations under each item on the new accord.

To finalize let me reiterate that the issues at stake for women and girls around the world are far too important and far too urgent. We must commit to using all the available tools and resources that we have at our disposal—including gender data—in innovative and effective ways to make the New Urban Agenda count for all women and girls everywhere.

Thank you.