31 January 2011

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Women’s Leadership Will Unleash Africa's Potential, Secretary-General Says


at Inauguration of Gender Entity’s Presence in Region


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the inauguration of UN Women’s presence in Africa, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 30 January:

Thank you all for coming here today.  The presence of a number of distinguished African Heads of State and Government attests to this continent’s strong support for the newest member of the UN family: UN Women.

For too long, different parts of the United Nations were working on women’s issues, but without enough focus.  All of that is changing.  UN Women brings together under one roof the main offices that dealt with women’s issues, and will bring women’s issues to all offices throughout the United Nations.

I am deeply grateful to UN Women’s Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, for her leadership.  In the short time she has been at the helm, Ms. Bachelet has inspired the staff and melded diverse structures into one.  She is moving quickly to pursue meaningful progress for the world’s women.

Many of you know Ms. Bachelet’s qualifications.  She earned a medical degree.  She learned military strategy.  She was Chile’s Minister of Health, Latin America’s first female Minister of Defence, and the first woman President of Chile.

I think President [Ellen] Johnson-Sirleaf and you have a special sisterhood.

These are impressive achievements, but even more remarkable is how she surmounted the odds along the way.  She understands pain and suffering because she has endured more than her share.  Her outrage at injustice is informed by what she has seen.  She is moved to work for a better world because she knows humanity at its worst.

We are at the dawn of the African Women’s Decade.  As I told leaders at the African Union Summit this morning, we have to make the most of this commemoration.  We have to confront the problems: inequality under the law, sexual violence, harmful practices that should not be part of any tradition.

We need to empower African women who produce food, raise children and drive the economy here.  When those women take their rightful place at the negotiating table, in the parliament and in leadership positions across society, we can unleash Africa’s enormous potential.  UN Women is here to help reach this goal.

Today, we unveil the logo of UN Women; more than that, we raise the curtain on a new act in a great drama.  I am counting on all of you to play your part.

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For information media • not an official record