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Despite progress, companies face gender equality ‘backlash’: UN business body

Although the drive to reach gender equality has picked up speed, and diversity initiatives have been put into place in companies and organizations, a significant level of resistance and backlash remains, according to a leading UN business group.

On the side-lines of the Commission on the Status of Women, the UN Global Compact – the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative – brought together business leaders from around the world to a roundtable at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday, to find ways to address the stumbling blocks to gender equality.

There are many concrete examples of the private sector moving in a positive direction, with regard to gender equality, and tackling systemic sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. These include the promotion of women’s representation on corporate boards, a demand for greater investment in companies owned by women, and a recognition that gender equality is a critical business issue.

Another powerful statement of intent is the CEO Statement of Support for the Women’s Empowerment Principles; an initiative of UN Global Compact and UN Women, which cover the range of ways that business can advance gender equality in the workplace. So far, over 2,000 global business leaders have signed up, and hundreds of companies around the world are using the Principles to inform their gender equality strategies.

Why the backlash?

However, resistance to gender equality initiatives has been identified as a problem that needs to be recognized and addressed. UN Global Compact has identified a number of reasons for the backlash.

These include a lack of understanding of the issue, which can occur when the business case for gender equality is not adequately explained; industry norms, where there is a persistent belief that some industries are better suited to either men or women; and fear of a loss of opportunities, status and position if there are gains made by women in the workplace.

[ read the full story on UN News ]

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The Secretary-General’s remarks at the opening of the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women [prefaced by remarks about plane crash in Ethiopia on 10 March 2019] New York, 11 March 2019

The S-G’s remarks at the opening of the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (11 March)

Welcome.

As you walked into the United Nations today, you saw our flags flying at half-mast. This is indeed a sad day for many around the world, and for the UN in particular.

Yesterday’s terrible air crash in Ethiopia took the lives of all those on board -- including at least 21 of our UN colleagues, according to the latest information, not to mention an undetermined number of people that have been working closely with the UN. 

A global tragedy has hit close to home — and the United Nations is united in grief.

I extend my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all the victims, to the government and people of Ethiopia, and all those affected by this disaster. 

We are working closely with government officials on the ground -- and mobilizing assistance, counseling and any other needed support during this difficult time. 

Our colleagues were women and men —junior professionals and seasoned officials — hailing from all corners of the globe and with a wide array of expertise.

They all had one thing in common — a spirit to serve the people of the world and to make it a better place for us all.

It is the same spirit that calls us to the UN every day — and that brings you to this General Assembly Hall today.

As we open this important gathering, let us honour the memories of our colleagues by keeping their spirit of service alive. Thank you.

***

This is the Commission on the Status of Women.

But it could equally go by another name: the Commission on the Status of Power.

Because that is the crux of the issue.

Gender equality is fundamentally a question of power.

For millennia, women have been systematically marginalized, ignored and silenced, in a male dominated world with a male dominated culture.

I recently came across an interesting book by the Cambridge historian Mary Beard.  It highlights how deep patriarchal roots in Western culture help explain deep power imbalances today.

I believe the same also applies to other regions of the world.

The truth is that, in the celebrated classics in ancient Greece and Rome, speech was quite literally defined as the business of men. 

Homer begins his epic with the son of Odysseus telling his mother to shut up and go back to weaving. 

Aristophanes wrote a play about women leading the state.  It was a comedy.

And, of course, we know that this isn’t ancient history.

You may be familiar with a cartoon of a group of executives sitting around a conference table – all men, one lone woman. 

The woman has just made an important point – followed by a long pause.

In the cartoon, finally, the boss pipes up and says “that’s an excellent suggestion, Ms. Triggs.  Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.”

I suspect many of you have had similar experiences.

Today, let us be clear about what needs to change.

As Professor Beard has written: “If women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely it is power we need to redefine rather than women.”

I thank you for leading that change and thank you for raising your voices.

We need you here, and we need you now.  And we need you more than ever.

I will be frank. 

Our world is a bit lost. 

Now, and I can recall my experience as a driver. I know men sometimes have difficulties recognizing when they get lost.

We don’t like to admit it. 

We have trouble asking for directions and trouble even looking at a map. 

Well, the fact is that our world today needs direction, and I know you can help guide the way.

Sometimes it feels like we are travelling at full speed … in both directions at the same time. 

People are more connected, yet societies are becoming more fragmented. 

Big challenges are growing outward – climate change, insecurity, conflict. 

Yet people are turning inward. 

More than ever, we need global responses to global challenges.

Yet more than ever, multilateralism – international problem solving – is under fire. 

You are living that paradox, too.

After all, advocates for gender equality are mobilizing like never before. 

You are building global movements.  Raising awareness.  Inspiring change.

At the same time, something else is happening. 

And we must tell it like it is. 

Around the world, there is a pushback on women’s rights. 

That pushback is deep, pervasive and relentless. 

We witness increased violence against women, especially human rights defenders and women running for political office.

We see online harassment and abuse of women who speak out.

In some countries, homicide rates are going down – but murders of women are going up.

In others, we see a rollback of legal protection against domestic violence or even female genital mutilation.

As the ILO just found, women last year were 26 percent less likely to be in employment than men.  Fewer than one-third of managers are women – even though they are likely to be better educated. 

We all know women’s participation makes peace agreements more durable, but we still struggle to make sure women are included in negotiating teams.

Even governments that are vocal supporters of this agenda fail to back their words with action where it counts.

Meanwhile, we see wide and persistent digital divides – an ongoing uphill battle for reproductive rights – terrible endemic sexual and gender-based violence.

And nationalist, populist and even austerity agendas are tearing the social fabric – aggravating inequality, splintering communities, curtailing women’s rights and cutting vital services.

We have a fight on our hands.  And it is a fight we must win – together.

So let us say it loud and clear:

We will not give ground.

We will not turn back.

We will push back against the pushback.

And we will keep pushing. 

For wholesale change.  For rapid change.  And for the meaningful change our world needs, starting by addressing the imbalance in power relations.

That is why here at the UN, I have been pushing for gender parity.  And I am proud to report to you, we are making good progress.

Today, if you look around the table of my Senior Management Group, you will find more women than men. Ms. Triggs is no longer alone.

A first in United Nations history.

Look around the world and you will find parity among our Resident Coordinators – our top officials on the ground.

Again, a first in United Nations history. 

We have the most female heads and deputy heads of peace operations in UN history.  And there is still a long way to go.

We are well on our way to parity in all senior ranks by 2021 – and across the board in the UN by 2028.

But that is not coming without pushback. 

I am told that even within the system some critics have even dared to play the competency card.

I heard it all before when I pushed for greater empowerment in my own political party decades ago in my country. 

The United Nations Charter states: “the paramount consideration in the employment of the staff … shall be the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity”.

The point is: men and women are equally efficient, equally competent, and with the same levels of integrity. 

It is the present situation that penalizes women and the organization as a whole.

With these facts in hand, I have reached a very clear and scientific conclusion: what these critics are saying about competency is complete and utter nonsense.

Or, and I say to our critics, do you truly believe that men are on average more competent than women?  If not, parity is a must for the Charter to be respected.

The way to take profit of all the competence that women bring is to achieve parity. 

The General Assembly made it clear in a resolution all the way back in 1975, stating that 
“a major principle governing the recruitment policy of the United Nations” must be the “equitable distribution of the positions between men and women”. A very strong recommendation unfortunately almost completely forgotten for decades.

And let us be clear – parity is about far more than numbers.

We are striving for greater opportunity for so many outstanding, talented, qualified women for a far more fundamental reason.  Dare I say, a more selfish reason.

Because it is good for us all.

When women are at the table, the chance of sustainable peace increases. 

When women have equal opportunities in the labour force, economies can unlock trillions, as it was forecast recently.

When gender is at the heart of humanitarian assistance, vital assistance goes farther and has greater impact for everyone – men, women, girls and boys.

Parity is about our very effectiveness in securing peace, advancing human rights and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Put simply, when we exclude women, everyone pays the price.

When we include women, the whole world wins.

One of your main themes this year is sustainable infrastructure – a vital issue. 

But you also are focusing on infrastructure in its largest sense:  building better societies.

We know women must be engaged as equal participants in all aspects of society.  That is how we build a better world.

This means changing power relations, closing gaps, tackling biases, fighting to preserve hard-won gains and winning ever-greater ground. 

Above all it means believing – never, ever giving up.

I have hope. 

You give me hope, by your commitment.  Your energy.  Your example.  Your resilience.

I am with you.

I am a proud feminist. 

You have my full support.

As we look to next year’s 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action – the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security – the 75th anniversary of the United Nations – to keep giving direction to our world. 

Keep leading us to a place where women and men enjoy equal rights, equal freedoms and equal power.

We need you more than ever.

Thank you.

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Women still struggle to find a job, let alone reach the top: new UN report calls for 'quantum leap'

Women’s job opportunities have barely improved since the early 1990s, UN labour experts said on Thursday, warning that female workers are still penalized for having children and looking after them.

Released on the eve of International Women's Day, celebrated on 8 March, the International Labour Organization (ILO) report found that 1.3 billion women were in work in 2018, compared with two billion men – a less than two per cent improvement in the last 27 years.

Men still dominate top job sector

“Glass ceiling” concerns over the lack of upward mobility at work also persist, given that fewer than one third of managers are women.

“Women are still under-represented at the top, a situation that has changed very little in the last 30 years. This is despite that fact that they are likely to be better educated than their male counterparts…education is not the main reason for lower employment rates and lower pay of women, but rather that women do not receive the same dividends for education as men.”

ILO 2019 report

According to the ILO’s findings, women’s pay is 20 per cent lower than men’s, as a global average.

iloquantumleapreportThis discrepancy is linked to a career-long “motherhood wage penalty”, which contrasts with the fact that fathers enjoy a “wage premium”.

Worryingly, between 2005 and 2015, there was also a 38 per cent increase in the number of working women who did not have young children, compared to those who had.

This is despite an ILO-Gallup 2017 global report which found that 70 per cent of women prefer working rather than staying at home – something men largely agree with, the organization noted.

‘It will take 209 years to achieve parity in unpaid care work’

“A number of factors are blocking equality in employment, and the one playing the largest role is caregiving,” said Manuela Tomei, Director, ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department. “In the last 20 years, the amount of time women spent on unpaid care and domestic work has hardly fallen”, she said, while men’s participation has increased “by just eight minutes a day. At this pace of change it will take more than 200 years to achieve equality in time spent in unpaid care work.”

[ read the full story on UN News ]

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Women’s empowerment ‘essential to global progress’ says Guterres, marking International Day

Women’s empowerment and gender equality are “essential to global progress”, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stressed in his message for International Women's Day which this year puts “innovation by women and girls, for women and girls”, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality.

“Last year, for the first time, we achieved gender parity in the UN’s Senior Management Group and among those who lead UN teams around the world”, the UN chief said, adding that the Organization is “working to achieve parity across the whole United Nations system within a decade.”

The UN began celebrating the International Day in 1975, which was designated International Women's Year. Over the decades it has morphed from recognizing the achievements of women to becoming a rallying point to build support for women's rights and participation, in the political and economic arenas.

“Gender equality is essential to the effectiveness of our work, and we cannot afford to miss out on the contributions of half of the world’s population”, Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed explained.

Moreover, “women’s equal participation in the labor force would unlock trillions of dollars for global development” she continued.

“Let us be clear,” she spelled out: “We cannot build the future we want and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without the full participation of women”.

Achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men and leave no one behind, according to the overarching UN strategy. E-learning platforms that take classrooms to women and girls; affordable and quality childcare centres; and technology shaped by women, are a few examples of the innovation needed to meet the 2030 deadline set out in the Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“And we need more women leaders participating in public life and taking decisions”, flagged General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa, urging everyone to redouble their efforts “against the discrimination and violence women and girls face every day”.

[ read the full story on UN News ]

Video - UN S-G's joint message on International Women's Day 2019

Read the S-G's message   | Learn more about the Day 

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Message on International Women's Day 2019 ( 8 March)

Gender equality and women’s rights are fundamental to global progress on peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. We can only re-establish trust in institutions, rebuild global solidarity and reap the benefits of diverse perspectives by challenging historic injustices and promoting the rights and dignity of all.

In recent decades, we have seen remarkable progress on women’s rights and leadership in some areas. But these gains are far from complete or consistent – and they have already sparked a troubling backlash from an entrenched patriarchy.

Gender equality is fundamentally a question of power. We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture. Only when we see women’s rights as our common objective, a route to change that benefits everyone, will we begin to shift the balance.

Increasing the number of women decision-makers is fundamental. At the United Nations, I have made this a personal and urgent priority. We now have gender parity among those who lead our teams around the world, and the highest-ever numbers of women in senior management. We will continue to build on this progress.

But women still face major obstacles in accessing and exercising power. As the World Bank found, just six economies give women and men equal legal rights in areas that affect their work. And if current trends continue, it will take 170 years to close the economic gender gap.

Nationalist, populist and austerity agendas add to gender inequality with policies that curtail women’s rights and cut social services. In some countries, while homicide rates overall are decreasing, femicide rates are rising. In others we see a rollback of legal protection against domestic violence or female genital mutilation. We know women’s participation makes peace agreements more durable, but even governments that are vocal advocates fail to back their words with action. The use of sexual violence as a tactic in conflict continues to traumatize individuals and entire societies.

Against this backdrop, we need to redouble our efforts to protect and promote women’s rights, dignity and leadership. We must not give ground that has been won over decades and we must push for wholesale, rapid and radical change.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, addresses infrastructure, systems and frameworks that have been constructed largely in line with a male-defined culture. We need to find innovative ways of reimagining and rebuilding our world so that it works for everyone. Women decision-makers in areas like urban design, transport and public services can increase women’s access, prevent harassment and violence, and improve everyone’s quality of life.

This applies equally to the digital future that is already upon us. Innovation and technology reflect the people who make them. The underrepresentation and lack of retention of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and design should be a cause of concern to all.

Last month, in Ethiopia, I spent time with African Girls Can Code, an initiative that is helping to bridge the digital gender divide and train the tech leaders of tomorrow. I was delighted to see the energy and enthusiasm these girls brought to their projects. Programmes like this not only develop skills; they challenge stereotypes that limit girls’ ambitions and dreams.

On this International Women’s Day, let’s make sure women and girls can shape the policies, services and infrastructure that impact all our lives. And let’s support

women and girls who are breaking down barriers to create a better world for everyone.

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Message on International day of women and girls in science

Skills in science, technology, engineering and math drive innovation and are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Women and girls are vital in all these areas. Yet they remain woefully under-represented.

Gender stereotypes, a lack of visible role models and unsupportive or even hostile policies and environments can keep them from pursuing these careers.

The world cannot afford to miss out on the contributions of half our population.

We need concerted efforts to overcome these obstacles.

We must tackle misconceptions about girls’ abilities.

We must promote access to learning opportunities for women and girls, particularly in rural areas.

And we must do more to change workplace culture so that girls who dream of being scientists, engineers and mathematicians can enjoy fulfilling careers in these fields.

Let us ensure that every girl, everywhere, has the opportunity to realize her dreams, grow into her power and contribute to a sustainable future for all.

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Female African coders ‘on the front-line of the battle’ to change gender power relations: UN chief

Young female African coders are “on the front-line” of the battle to change traditionally male power relations and bring about a more equitable balance between men and women, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said during his visit to Ethiopia to attend the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa..

The UN chief was speaking after meeting girls from across the continent taking part in the African Girls Can Code Initiative, a joint initiative from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and UN Women. This new programme saw more than 80 girls from 34 African countries join the first Coding Camp in Addis Ababa for 10 days in August 2018.

The girls attending the courses learn about digital literacy, coding and personal development skills, including enterprise know-how to ensure their financial security. They are trained as programmers, creators and designers, so that they are well equipped to compete for careers in areas such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and coding. The initiative will runs until 2022 and is expected to reach more than 2,000 girls through 18 Coding Camps.

[ read the full story on UN News ]

video:

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Violence against women a ‘mark of shame’ on our societies, says UN chief on World Day

Violence against women and girls is not only a fundamental human rights issue but also a “moral affront” against them and a “mark of shame” on all societies, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said, calling greater action by everyone around the world to root out the scourge.

In a message on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Mr. Guterres also underscored that such violence and abuse is a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.

“Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world,” said the Secretary-General.

The UN chief also noted that at its core, violence against women and girls is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women – and that it is tied to the broader issues of power and control in societies.

“We live in a male-dominated society,” he said, adding that women are made vulnerable to violence through the multiple ways in which they are kept unequal, harming the individual and has far-reaching consequences for families and society.

The violence, he said, can take many forms: domestic attacks to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide.

In his message, the Secretary-General said that increasing public disclosure by women from all regions and all walks of life of the sexual harassment they faced is galvanizing power of women’s movements to drive action to eliminate harassment and violence everywhere.

This year, the global United Nations UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls is highlighting our support for survivors and advocates under the theme ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo’.

“With orange as the unifying colour of solidarity, the #HearMeToo hashtag is designed to send a clear message: violence against women and girls must end now, and we all have a role to play,” said Mr. Guterres.

newsicon  [ read the full story on UN News

 

Related video from- UN Women

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Message on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 25 November 2018

Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic. It is a moral affront to all women and girls, a mark of shame on all our societies and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. At its core, violence against women and girls is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women. It is an issue of fundamental human rights.

Violence can take many forms -- from domestic attacks to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide. It harms the individual and has far-reaching consequences for families and society. This is also a deeply political issue. Violence against women is tied to broader issues of power and control in our societies. We live in a male-dominated society. Women are made vulnerable to violence through the multiple ways in which we keep them unequal.

In the past year we have seen growing attention to one manifestation of this violence. Sexual harassment is experienced by most women at some point in their lives. Increasing public disclosure by women from all regions and all walks of life is bringing the magnitude of the problem to light and demonstrating the galvanizing power of women’s movements to drive the action and awareness needed to eliminate harassment and violence everywhere.

This year, the global United Nations UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls is highlighting our support for survivors and advocates under the theme ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo’. With orange as the unifying colour of solidarity, the #HearMeToo hashtag is designed to send a clear message: violence against women and girls must end now, and we all have a role to play.

The same message resonates through the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative. This 500-million-euro programme will empower survivors and advocates to become agents of change in their homes, communities and countries. But while this initial investment is significant, it is small given the scale of need. It should be seen as seed funding for a global movement. Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.

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Remarks on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

[as delivered]

I am very pleased to be with you to discuss this essential topic.

Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic.

It is a moral affront to all women and girls and to us all, a mark of shame on all our societies, and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.

At its core, violence against women and girls in all its forms is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women.

It is an issue of fundamental human rights.

The violence can take many forms – from domestic violence to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide.

It is an issue that harms the individual but also has far-reaching consequences for families and for society.

Violence experienced as a child is linked to vulnerability and violence later in life.

Other consequences include long-term physical and mental health impacts and costs to individuals and society in services and lost employment days. 

This is also a deeply political issue.

Violence against women is tied to broader issues of power and control in our societies.

We live in a male-dominated world.

Women are made vulnerable to violence through the multiple ways in which we keep them unequal.

When family laws which govern inheritance, custody and divorce discriminate against women, or when societies narrow women’s access to financial resources and credit, they impede a woman’s ability to leave abusive situations.

When institutions fail to believe victims, allow impunity, or neglect to put in place policies of protection, they send a strong signal that condones and enables violence. 

In the past year we have seen growing attention to one manifestation of this violence.

Sexual harassment is experienced by almost all women at some point in their lives.

No space is immune. 

It is rampant across institutions, private and public, including our very own.

This is by no means a new issue, but the increasing public disclosure by women from all regions and all walks of life is bringing the magnitude of the problem to light.

This effort to uncover society’s shame is also showing the galvanizing power of women’s movements to drive the action and awareness needed to eliminate harassment and violence everywhere.

This year, the global United Nations UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls is highlighting our support for survivors and advocates under the theme ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo’.

With orange as the unifying colour of solidarity, the #HearMeToo hashtag is designed to send a clear message: violence against women and girls must end now, and we all have a role to play.

We need to do more to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable.

But, beyond that, it is imperative that we – as societies -- undertake the challenging work of transforming the structures and cultures that allow sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence to happen in the first place.

These include addressing the gender imbalances within our own institutions.

This is why we have adopted a UN system-wide gender parity strategy.

We have achieved parity in the senior management group and we are well on track to reach gender parity in senior leadership by 2021, and across the board by 2028.

The UN has also reaffirmed its zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and assault committed by staff and UN partners.

We have recruited specialized investigators on sexual harassment, instituted fast-track procedures for addressing complaints and initiated a 24/7 helpline for victims.

I also remain committed to ending all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers and UN staff in the field – one of the first initiatives I took when I assumed office.

Nearly 100 Member States that support UN operations on the ground have now signed voluntary compacts with us to tackle the issue, and I call on others to join them, fully assuming their responsibilities, in training, but also in ending impunity.

Further afield, we are continuing to invest in life-changing initiatives for millions of women and girls worldwide through the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

This Fund focuses on preventing violence, implementing laws and policies and improving access to vital services for survivors.

With more than 460 programmes in 139 countries and territories over the past two decades, the UN Trust Fund is making a difference.

In particular, it is investing in women’s civil society organizations, one of the most important and effective investments we can make.

The UN is also working to deliver on a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder, innovative initiative to end all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 500-million-euro EU-UN Spotlight Initiative is an important step forward in this direction.

As the largest-ever single investment in eradicating violence against women and girls worldwide, this initial contribution will address the rights and needs of women and girls across 25 countries and five regions.

It will empower survivors and advocates to share their stories and become agents of change in their homes, communities and countries.

A significant portion of the Spotlight’s initial investment will also go to civil society actors, including those that are reaching people often neglected by traditional aid efforts.

But even though this initial investment is significant, it is small given the scale of the need.

It should be seen as seed funding for a global movement in which we must play a role.

It is that global movement that we celebrate today, as we look forward to the coming 16 days devoted to ending gender-based violence.

Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free of fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.

Thank you very much.

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