Remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the SDG Moment 2020

Date: Friday, September 18, 2020

[As delivered]

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action. As we celebrate this landmark agreement, COVID-19 threatens to undo the gains made on gender equality in the past 25 years. Women’s economic security is in jeopardy; gender poverty gaps are widening; gender-based violence is resurgent; and girls’ education and maternal health are threatened.

In 2021, it is expected there will be 118 women in poverty for every 100 poor men globally, and this could rise by 2030.

This would be a stunning reversal for the SDGs.

But this kind of backsliding is not a foregone conclusion: with bold policies to boost women’s economic empowerment, we can shift course and accelerate progress instead.

Whether it is through policies to increase women’s employment, including to support skills development and gender equality in Science, Technology and Innovation, services to support care to reduce women’s workloads or to respond to violence, countries recognize women’s potential and are showing the way.

In 2015, Uruguay put in place a publicly financed comprehensive Care System for children, the elderly and people with disabilities. As a result, Uruguay is today one of the leading countries in childcare provision and employment rates for mothers.

There are other examples. Georgia and South Africa are supporting women’s businesses. Morocco is assisting women's cooperatives. Japan and Sweden have policies to promote equal pay. In Australia, the Government is leading the way to boost women’s equality in STEM.

The UN system is taking these policy insights to support countries on similar pathways. 

Societies benefit when women can rise to opportunities. A profound transformation of economies is required for a just, sustainable future where women are at the centre. Countries need to invest in care services, education and skills that will be the backbone of the economies of the future.