Inequality Costs Too Much, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Forum on Role of Leadership in Promoting Gender Equality

17 May 2010
DSG/SM/504-WOM/1798

Inequality Costs Too Much, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Forum on Role of Leadership in Promoting Gender Equality

17 May 2010
Deputy Secretary-General
DSG/SM/504 WOM/1798
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Inequality Costs Too Much, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Forum

 

on Role of Leadership in Promoting Gender Equality

 

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the International Forum on the Role of Leadership in Promoting Gender Equality in Kigali, today, 17 May:

I am honoured to take part in this important and timely forum.  I salute you, Mr. President, and the leadership of Rwanda for bringing gender equality to the centre of political, economic and social processes.  Your achievements show the remarkable progress that can be made with clear vision and dedication, in a relatively short period of time.

But your story also reveals an impressive demonstration of women’s resilience, courage and extraordinary ability to rebuild a country devastated by conflict and genocide.  You have made tremendous progress in advancing the role of women in the political life of the country and in legislative reform.

And you have clearly demonstrated to the world that achieving the highest global representation of women in parliament is possible despite past and present challenges.  The lesson drawn from your experience is simple:  we must keep going in spite of the trials we may encounter in our journey to gender equality and the full empowerment of women.

Gender equality is a key goal in itself.  But it is more than that.  Women’s empowerment is an essential means to achieving sustainable development, economic growth, and peace and security.  We must spread this message and translate it into concrete action at all levels. 

Now is the time.  2010 is an important year for gender equality.  This year marked the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which remains at the heart of the international normative and policy framework on gender equality.

In September, a high-level event of the General Assembly will assess progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals and to forge a concrete action plan for achieving them by the agreed target year of 2015.

In October, we will mark the tenth anniversary of the ground-breaking Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, and reaffirm that sustainable peace is possible, only with women’s full participation.

These milestones, including this Forum, provide excellent opportunities to assess how well countries, regions and international organizations have done in the promotion of gender equality — and to identify strategies and partnerships that can accelerate progress.

We have much to build on.  Across the globe, there are now institutional mechanisms on gender equality, as well as gender studies programmes.  The mainstreaming strategy has emerged as a key tool for systematically bringing gender perspectives into all policy and programming processes.

Globally, the number of women in paid employment has increased, and women’s participation in the labour force has reached a new high.  Over the past decade, States have devoted greater attention and focus to overcoming occupational segregation and addressing the unequal distribution of unpaid domestic and care work.

Governments have introduced a variety of measures in support of women’s equal access to and control over economic resources, including credit and land rights.  Access to education has increased for girls at all levels, particularly in primary education.

Increasingly, States are establishing comprehensive legal, policy, and institutional frameworks to end violence against women and girls, and support services are increasingly available to survivors.

During the past decade, a better understanding has been gained on women's participation in peace processes, the elimination of sexual violence in armed conflict, and ensuring the consideration of gender perspectives in the context of armed conflict, peacebuilding and reconstruction.

More and more leaders from all walks of life — women and men — are taking a public stance on ending violence against women, including sexual violence, trafficking and female genital mutilation.

And there is a growing recognition among Governments and in the private sector that investing in women and girls has a powerful multiplier effect — on productivity, efficiency and economic growth.

So there are many good practices from which to learn.  The challenge ahead is to expand and apply such practices more systematically, particularly in areas where more needs to be done.

The costs of inequality — for women and girls, for their communities, for economies at large — are too high.  To cite just one example, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific estimates that that region is losing as much as $47 billion of output each year from a lack of female participation in labour markets.

The global economic and financial crisis has generated a new sense of urgency for committed and accelerated action to address gender-based discrimination, violations of women’s human rights and violence against women.  This requires leadership — leadership at every level and in many forms.

It means greater participation by women in political decision-making, and in corporate boardrooms.  It means transparent and fair selection and promotion processes within political parties and other political and economic bodies.  But it also means implementing effective mitigating measures to respond to structural imbalances affecting women in society.

Numerous studies have found that companies with a more balanced representation of women and men in their top management teams considerably outperform those where such representation is low.

Quotas and other temporary special measures have been applied in electoral systems and in corporate and civil service recruitment processes.  They have played a significant role in increasing the number of women in public life — which, in turn, has provided an incentive and model for younger women.

Much of this progress would not have been possible without the determined leadership of women’s groups and networks at global, regional and national levels.  Indeed, women’s organizations play a key role in holding Governments accountable.

Leadership also requires partnerships, and action by individuals — women and men alike.  After all, the promotion of gender equality is not solely a women’s issue.  Men at all levels, particularly in leadership positions, have a special responsibility.  All people stand to benefit.  So all leaders — male and female — must do their part to keep these issues at the top of the international agenda.

This is why, back at the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban and I are working closely with Member States to advance the intergovernmental negotiation process for the establishment of a new gender entity.  The new entity will strengthen the capacity of the United Nations to support Member States’ own efforts to achieve gender equality, in line with their national priorities and with nationally-agreed norms and policies.

I thank all of you for everything you are doing to advance these objectives.  The Secretary-General and I stand by your side in the pursuit of our noble cause.  Thank you for your leadership, creativity and support. 

As we march forth from Kigali, you have my best wishes, and my commitment as we work together to expand opportunities for women and communities everywhere.  

I commend once again the Rwandese Government for their leadership in convening this conference and I look forward to fruitful deliberations.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.