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UN Chief Op Ed - "We are at a pivotal moment for women’s rights"

We are at a pivotal moment for women’s rights. The historical and structural inequalities that have allowed oppression and discrimination to flourish are being exposed like never before. From Latin America to Europe to Asia, on social media, on film sets, on the factory floor and in the streets, women are calling for lasting change and zero tolerance for sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination of all kinds.

Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.

The activism and advocacy of generations of women has borne fruit. There are more girls in school than ever before; more women are doing paid work and in senior roles in the private sector, academia, politics and in international organizations, including the United Nations. Gender equality is enshrined in countless laws, and harmful practices like female genital mutilation and child marriage have been outlawed in many countries.  

But serious obstacles remain if we are to address the historic power imbalances that underpin discrimination and exploitation.

More than a billion women around the world lack legal protection against domestic sexual violence. The global gender pay gap is 23 per cent, rising to 40 per cent in rural areas, and the unpaid work done by many women goes unrecognized. Women’s representation in national parliaments stands, on average, at less than one quarter, and in boardrooms it is even lower. Without concerted action, millions more girls will be subjected to genital mutilation over the next decade.

Where laws exist, they are often ignored, and women who pursue legal redress are doubted, denigrated and dismissed. We now know that sexual harassment and abuse have been thriving in workplaces, public spaces and private homes, in countries that pride themselves on their record of gender equality.

The United Nations should set an example for the world.

I recognize that this has not always been the case. Since the start of my tenure last year, I have set change in motion at UN headquarters, in our peacekeeping missions and in all our offices worldwide.

We have now reached gender parity for the first time in my senior management team, and I am determined to achieve this throughout the organization. I am totally committed to zero tolerance of sexual harassment and have set out plans to improve reporting and accountability. We are working closely with countries around the world to prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse by staff in peacekeeping missions, and to support victims.

We at the United Nations stand with women around the world as they fight to overcome the injustices they face – whether they are rural women dealing with wage discrimination, urban women organizing for change, women refugees at risk of exploitation and abuse, or women who experience intersecting forms of discrimination: widows, indigenous women, women with disabilities and women who do not conform to gender norms.

Women’s empowerment is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals means progress for all women, everywhere. The Spotlight initiative launched jointly with the European Union will focus resources on eliminating violence against women and girls, a prerequisite for equality and empowerment. 

Let me be clear: this is not a favour to women. Gender equality is a human rights issue, but it is also in all our interests: men and boys, women and girls. Gender inequality and discrimination against women harms us all.

There is ample evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies, and even countries. Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous. Where women face discrimination, we often find practices and beliefs that are detrimental to all. Paternity leave, laws against domestic violence and equal pay legislation benefit everyone.

At this crucial moment for women’s rights, it is time for men to stand with women, listen to them and learn from them. Transparency and accountability are essential if women are to reach their full potential and lift all of us, in our communities, societies and economies.

I am proud to be part of this movement, and I hope it continues to resonate within the United Nations and around the world.

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UN S-G remarks at end violence event barbados

United Nations Secretary General 

REMARKS AT EVENT TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

[ as prepared for delivery ]

2 July 2015

 

The Honourable Steven Blackett, Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, The Honourable Adriel Brathwaite Q.C., M.P., Attorney General, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Today I am proud to stand with you to end the devastating problem of violence against women. The Caribbean has among the highest rates of sexual assault in the world.

Three Caribbean countries are in the global top ten for recorded rapes. In the eastern Caribbean, UNICEF estimates that child sexual abuse rates are between 20 and 45 per cent – meaning at least one in five precious children are affected. Most are girls who have no choice but to live close to their attacker. They desperately need our help.

Too many women are afraid to seek help. One study showed that up to two thirds of all victims suffer without ever reporting the crime.

I am outraged by this. Shame belongs to the perpetrators – not the victims. We have to change mindsets – especially among men.

I am proud to be the first man to sign onto the UN’s HeForShe campaign. Today, I invite more men to take the HeForShe pledge. I encourage you to join UNICEF’s End Violence global campaign. 

And every day, I count on all of you to work for true equality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This country can lead the region. We chose Barbados for the Caribbean launch of my UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign in 2010. Under this campaign, Barbados hosted the 2012 UNiTE Conference that adopted the Bridgetown Declaration for Action to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Abuse Against Girls and Boys.  This country has been reforming its legislation and working to confront the problem. Today we take another step forward.

The Memorandum of Understanding being signed by the Office of the Attorney General and UN Women will boost our joint efforts to end gender-based violence. It will give women greater access to justice. And it will help end impunity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

A great daughter of Barbados, the late Dame Nita Barrow, once told the General Assembly that the United Nations Charter is “a shield against those who would abuse the unsuspecting and the powerless.”  In that light, today’s event is a meaningful celebration of the Charter’s 70thanniversary.

Thank you.

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Contact

Email: unic.portofspain@unic.org 

Telephone: 1(868) 623 8438 or 623 4813

Fax: 1 (868) 623 4332 

Address: 

2nd Floor Bretton Hall, 16 Victoria Avenue, 

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

 

 

 

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