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Message on International Women's Day 2018

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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International Women’s Day: The ‘time is now’ to transform global push for women’s rights into action – UN

“The historical and structural inequalities that have allowed oppression and discrimination to flourish are being exposed like never before,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message on the Day, marked annually on 8 March and this year

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, said the UN chief, declaring that 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,” he continued. “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.”  

However, some remaining serious obstacles include that more than a billion women lack legal protection against domestic sexual violence; over the next decade millions more girls will undergo genital mutilation; and women’s representation in parliaments stands at less than one quarter – and even lower in boardrooms.

“Where laws exist, they are often ignored, and women who pursue legal redress are doubted, denigrated and dismissmantled,” he lamented.

[ read the full story on UN News Centre ]


 

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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.

Read more...

UN calls for women's full participation in labour force

8 March 2017 – As the rights of women and girls around the world are being reduced and restricted, the United Nations today marked International Women's Day with calls for empowering and educating women and girls to reach gender equality in the work place.

In messages for the Day and events around the world, senior UN officials reflected on the significant impact of women's participation and contribution to the global economy, and international goal of reaching 50-50 equality in employment around the world by 2030.

Secretary-General António Guterres noted that leadership positions are predominantly held by men, and “outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism” are widening the economic gender gap.

“Around the world, tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women's rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices,” the Secretary-General said.

He underscored that denying women and girls their rights “is not only wrong in itself; it has serious social and economic impacts that hold us all back.”

Closing the gender gap, for example, would add $12 trillion to global gross domestic production (GDP) by 2025.

In her message, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, decried the lack of opportunities for women and girls, saying “too many women and girls spend too many hours on household responsibilities.”

She called for construing a different world of work for women: “As they grow up, girls must be exposed to a broad range of careers, and encouraged to make choices that lead beyond the traditional service and care options to jobs in industry, art, public service, modern agriculture and science,”

This change needs to start at home and in the first days of school, and include adjustments in parenting, curricula, educational settings and cultural stereotypes propagated in entertainment and advertising.

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said women and girls must be ready to be part of a digital revolution and study science, technology and math if they are to compete successfully for high-paying new jobs.

In her message, the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCOsaid equality lies in destroying stereotypes. It “lies in ridding the media and collective imagination of prejudice by highlighting the women scientists, artists and politicians who are moving humanity forward in all fields,” Irina Bokova said.

She called on governments to invest in education and training, and allowing women to exercise their own choices when it comes to their bodies and their lives – just as men do.

“Everywhere, women and men are determined to change things, to denounce discrimination and demand genuine equality, and we must support and accompany them,” said Ms. Bokova.


Learn more about the UN and Women 

 

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Message on International Women's Day 2017

The Secretary-General

Written message on International Women’s Day

New York, 8 March 2017

Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed.

Empowering women and girls is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realize their full potential.

Historic imbalances in power relations between men and women, exacerbated by growing inequalities within and between societies and countries, are leading to greater discrimination against women and girls. Around the world, tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women’s rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices.

Women’s legal rights, which have never been equal to men’s on any continent, are being eroded further. Women’s rights over their own bodies are questioned and undermined.  Women are routinely targeted for intimidation and harassment in cyberspace and in real life. In the worst cases, extremists and terrorists build their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and single them out for sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage and virtual enslavement.

Despite some improvements, leadership positions across the board are still held by men, and the economic gender gap is widening, thanks to outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism. We must change this, by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world.

Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies.   

Women’s access to education and health services has benefits for their families and communities that extend to future generations. An extra year in school can add up to 25 per cent to a girl’s future income.

When women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Closing the gender gap in employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits whole societies.

Gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed by leaders of all countries to meet the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls specifically for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and this is central to the achievement of all the 17 SDGs. 

I am committed to increasing women’s participation in our peace and security work. Women negotiators increase the chances of sustainable peace, and women peacekeepers decrease the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Within the UN, I am establishing a clear road map with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system, so that our Organization truly represents the people we serve.  Previous targets have not been met. Now we must move from ambition to action.

On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. 

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International Day to End Violence Against Women and Girls

UN Secretary-General's Message for the International Day

to End Violence against Women and Girls

25 November 2016

 

At long last, there is growing global recognition that violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, public health pandemic and serious obstacle to sustainable development.  Yet there is still much more we can and must do to turn this awareness into meaningful prevention and response.

 Violence against women and girls imposes large-scale costs on families, communities and economies.  When women cannot work as a result of violence, their employment may be put at risk, jeopardizing much-needed income, autonomy and their ability to leave abusive relationships.  Violence against women also results in lost productivity for businesses, and drains resources from social services, the justice system and health-care agencies. Domestic and intimate partner violence remains widespread, compounded by impunity for those crimes.  The net result is enormous suffering as well as the exclusion of women from playing their full and rightful roles in society.

 The world cannot afford to pay this price. Women and girls cannot afford it – and should not have to.  Yet such violence persists every day, around the world.  And efforts to address this challenge, although rich in political commitment, are chronically under-funded.

 Since 2008, I have led the UNiTE campaign to End Violence against Women, which calls for global action to increase resources and promote solutions.  I call on governments to show their commitment by dramatically increasing national spending in all relevant areas, including in support of women’s movements and civil society organizations.  I also encourage world leaders to contribute to UN Women and to the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.  We look as well to the private sector, philanthropies and concerned citizens to do their part.

 Today, we are seeing the world lit up in orange, symbolizing a bright future for women and girls. With dedicated investment, we can keep these lights shining, uphold human rights and eliminate violence against women and girls for good.

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"From the glass ceiling to carpets of shards"

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

--

MESSAGE ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

“FROM THE GLASS CEILING TO A CARPET OF SHARDS”

8 March 2016

 

As a boy growing up in post-war Korea ,  I remember asking about a tradition I observed: women going into labour would leave their shoes at the threshold and then look back in fear. “They are wondering if they will ever step into those shoes again,” my mother explained. 

More than a half-century later,  the memory continues to haunt me.  In poor parts of the world today, women still risk death in the process of giving life. Maternal mortality is one of many preventable perils. All too often, female babies are subjected to genital mutilation. Girls are attacked on their way to school.  Women’s bodies are used as battlefields in wars. Widows are shunned and impoverished. 

We can only address these problems by empowering women as agents of change.

For more than nine years, I have put this philosophy into practice at the United Nations.  We have shattered so many glass ceilings we created a carpet of shards.  Now we are sweeping away the assumptions and bias of the past so women can advance across new frontiers.

I appointed the first-ever female Force Commander of United Nations troops,  and pushed women’s representation at the upper levels of our Organization to historic highs.   Women are now leaders at the heart of peace and security – a realm that was once the exclusive province of men. When I arrived at the United Nations, there were no women leading our peace missions in the field. Now,  nearly a quarter of all UN missions are headed by women – far from enough but still a vast improvement. 

I have signed nearly 150 letters of appointment to women in positions as Assistant Secretary-General or Under-Secretary-General. Some came from top government offices with international renown, others have moved on to leadership positions in their home countries.  All helped me prove how often a woman is the best person for a job.

To ensure that this very real progress is lasting, we have built a new framework that holds the entire UN system accountable. Where once gender equality was seen as a laudable idea, now it is a firm policy. Before, gender sensitivity training was optional;  now it is mandatory for ever-greater numbers of UN staff.  In the past, only a handful of UN budgets tracked resources for gender equality and women’s empowerment; now this is standard for nearly one in three, and counting. 

Confucius taught that to put the world in order, we must begin in our own circles. Armed with proof of the value of women leaders at the United Nations,  I have spoken out for women’s empowerment everywhere. In speeches at parliaments, universities and street rallies, in private talks with world leaders,  in meetings with corporate executives and in tough conversations with powerful men ruling rigidly patriarchal societies,  I have insisted on women’s equality and urged measures to achieve it.

When I took office, there were nine parliaments in the world with no women. We helped to drive that number down to four.  I launched the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign in 2008; today, scores of leaders and ministers,  hundreds parliamentarians and millions of individuals have added their names to the action call.

I was the first man to sign our HeForShe campaign, and more than a million others have joined since.  I stood with activists calling for the abandonment of female genital mutilation and celebrated when the General Assembly adopted its first-ever resolution supporting that goal.  I am echoing the calls of many who know women can drive success in achieving our bold 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and advancing the Paris Agreement on climate change.

On this International Women’s Day, I remain outraged by the denial of rights to women and girls – but I take heart from the people everywhere who act on the secure knowledge that women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement.  Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world.  

There is no greater investment in our common future.

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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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