Opening Remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day 2021, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world on the way to the Generation Equality Forum”


[As delivered]

H.E. Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the General Assembly,
H.E. Mr. Mher Margaryan, Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On this International Women’s Day 2021, we stand at a crossroads as we ponder the recovery from a pandemic that has had a disproportionate impact on women and girls. We also face the challenge of the underrepresentation of women in key institutions, some of which will be responsible for the recovery.

The recovery will not be adequate and inclusive if it does not include women in decisions that affect their lives. As we go into the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), we have an opportunity to call for the representation of women in all decision-making bodies.

We only have 12 per cent of parliaments that are gender balanced. 119 countries have never had a woman leader. We also have just 13 gender-equal cabinets in the world. These are all important bodies that will be making decisions about the future of the world and will be guiding this recovery. We therefore have a responsibility to call out under-representation of women.

In 2020 when we marked 25 years of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, Heads of State lamented the under-representation of women in their countries. This is the time to address this under-representation and, in the Agreed Conclusions of CSW, to make bold recommendations.

We will also have Generation Equality, which will help in taking measures and steps that will help the recovery and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. This, again, is an opportunity that cannot be missed.

The exclusion of women from decisions that affect their lives is bad corporate governance. It should not be allowed. This is why at this point in 2021, when we are at a crossroads, we have to bring this to an end.

Thank you.