I Lead by Example. ​I am Generation Equality.

Racha Haffar, an award-winning women's rights activist

Women’s leadership and decision-making is not a favour to women. It is essential to peace and progress for all. We cannot hope to turn the climate crisis around, reduce social divisions or make sustained peace without the full contributions of all of society."

– António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

We need to step up support for women’s leadership at all levels, from local communities to global organizations, from science to politics. As the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made'."

– Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General

Measured purely by numbers and ratios, the picture of women’s and girls’ leadership globally is grim indeed. Only 21 countries currently have women heads of State or government, and at current rates of change, it will take another 130 years to reach gender parity at the pinnacle of power. The proportion of women in parliament may have doubled globally since 1995, but men still hold 75 per cent of seats, with parity not expected until 2063.

National COVID-19 task forces, critical in orchestrating responses to the pandemic, could offer a remarkable opportunity to tap women leaders, since women constitute 70 per cent of frontline health workers. Yet a recent survey of 87 of these bodies found only 3.5 percent had equal numbers of men and women.

These gaps are unfair and must be closed now, not over decades or centuries. At the same time, women are not waiting for the doors to open. As members of a new Generation Equality, they know they have the right to lead and participate – and don’t hesitate to claim it.

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I lead to change the places of power


From parliaments to schools to the media, women leaders are calling for actions to address long overlooked issues vital to gender equality. They are pushing forward concerns such as slow progress in ending gender-based violence, gaps in parental leave and childcare, discriminatory laws, and the multiple forms of marginalization some women face due to ability, race, sexual orientation, age and other factors.

"From a young age, I was exposed to the stories of women who had faced inequalities, discrimination and prejudices. These stories made me challenge the society. I believed that unless we, women, start telling the stories of women, nobody else would."

Subina Shrestha is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker from Nepal known for her fearless commitment to covering natural and human-made disasters, including through investigations of child slavery and the aftermath of Nepal’s catastrophic 2015 earthquake. Photo: Jyoti Keshar Simha

Learn more about Shrestha

"Young women, women in rural areas, indigenous women and older women, we need to take over the positions [of power and decisions] that we have been denied historically. We need to have that vision and understand that the power of change lies within us."

Marissa Gabriela Solano is a Honduran human rights activist and feminist who focuses on the rights of people of African descent. She believes that women should enter and change all the spaces where discrimination persists, and that men and women should be allies in the fight for equality. Photo: UN Women/Carolina Pereira

Learn more about Solano


"Public policy shapes decisions that affect both men and women, and it’s important to have women’s voices reflected, so that we don’t continue building a society from a male perspective."

Francy L. Jaramillo Piedrahita is a human rights defender working on women’s rights, LGBTIQ+ issues and peacebuilding in Colombia. She has been leading the country’s implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and the national peace agreement in the region of Cauca. For her, a peaceful society is one with equal rights. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Learn more about Jaramillo Piedrahita

"If you want to live in a democratic country, if you wish for a better life for yourself and your children, then you should fight for equal rights for everyone, because this is the only way to build a happy society."

Sixteen-year-old Anna Lavreniuk, undeterred by common stereotypes in Ukraine that boys make better leaders, raises awareness about gender equality as head of her local school council. She also chairs the committee to end bullying in schools under her regional chapter of the National Council of Children and Youth. Photo: Klitschko Foundation

Learn more about Lavreniuk

I lead to end violence


Taking many forms, violence against women and girls can be found in every society and is the most prevalent violation of human rights. Women everywhere have led the drive to end it, advocating new laws, insisting on zero tolerance, and making sure survivors get the right legal, health and other essential services.

"Young people can do a lot to take action against human trafficking. Don’t sit and wait for something to happen."

Racha Haffar, an award-winning women’s rights activist from Tunisia, founded ‘Not 4 Trade,’ the first anti-human trafficking NGO in Tunisia. She calls for talking about human trafficking everywhere, from schools to the news, to break the silence that sustains it. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Learn more about Haffar

"We do not want to be invisible; we want to be treated equally."

Ajna Jusić is the President of the Forgotten Children of War Association in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The group stands up for children born out of rape, like Jusić, advocating their recognition as a vulnerable group entitled to social protection services. Photo: UN Women/Maria Sanchez

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"I believe in activism... We go out into the streets for those who died, those who died fighting for the rights that we still don't have and those who died without the opportunity of defending themselves."

Vanina Escales is one of the founders of Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) in Argentina, a movement protesting the often-passive response to murdered women. The movement calls for rebelling against such violations over and over until they stop happening for good. Photo: Catalina Bartolomé

Learn more about Escales

I lead To stop the climate crisis


For women leading the charge to stop climate change, it’s not just about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but contesting social and economic systems that produce both pollution and injustice. Gender-based discrimination leaves women out of decisions that have to be made. And with fewer economic and other assets, they are less resilient to climate-related events like natural disasters.

"We can’t, especially now in the face of climate change, be excluded from policy-making settings... To all the young girls of colour reading this... you have every right to take up space. Occupy, fill and cement – unapologetically."

Munnira Katongole is a South African activist fighting for social change and climate justice. She views climate change as a wake-up call to transform systems of exploitation that maintain discrimination against young women of colour. Her call: clean energy, sustainable food, collective ownership. Photo: Munnira Katongole

Learn more about Katongole

"We're living through a historic moment in terms of the climate crisis, which young people did not create, but we do have an option of leading the way to... respect for nature, and respect for each other."

Maria Alejandra Rodriguez Acha is a Co-Executive Director at FRIDA, The Young Feminist Fund, in Lima, Peru. She advocates for climate justice that links the fight for social justice with the fight for environmental sustainability, and maintains there are enough natural and other resources for everyone if we share them. Photo: UN Women/Amanda Voisard

Learn more about Rodriguez Acha


"While climate action needs action from everyone at every level, we need to empower and mobilize women to lead through their own actions."

Natalie Isaacs founded 1 Million Women, a global movement of women and girls who take practical actions to fight climate change by changing how they live. She created the group in Australia after finding that no existing organization spoke to what women can concretely do in their own lives. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Learn more about Isaacs

I lead To open opportunities for all women and girls


Women and girls lead not just by seeking their own equality, but by finding ways to extend empowerment to other women and girls, in an ever-widening circle. In doing so, they are demonstrating more inclusive, socially beneficial modes of leadership, while breaking barriers to women in technology, sports and beyond.

"If we make all voices heard, who knows what incredible possibilities lie ahead. Anyone – a child, a girl, could come up with an amazing idea that could revolutionize the world."

At age 11, Samaira Mehta, from the United States, is already the founder of Coderbunnyz and Codermindz, two board games that introduce kids to computer programming and artificial intelligence. She also hosts workshops to bring more girls into science and technology, and make them "better thinkers, leaders, creators and dreamers". Photo: Coderbunnyz

Learn more about Mehta

"For years, women’s rights advocates have advocated for a new dawn in the status of women and girls... As a young woman, I am also playing a role by advocating for the inclusion of women and girls in sport."

Fatma Ahmed founded the Girls’ Inclusion in Sports Campaign in Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania. She sees sports as empowering women and girls with the knowledge that they can transcend the boundaries of sex, race, religion and nationality. Photo: UN Women/Tsitsi Matope

Learn more about Ahmed


"Empowering yourself is key to breaking any barrier that is in front of you. And in empowering myself, I then had the confidence to empower others."

Ibtsam Sayeed Ahmed is a Syrian refugee and volunteer in the UN Women Oasis Center in the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan. Undeterred by lasting injuries caused by a bombing, she supports women, youth and people with disabilities to stand up for their rights, especially to education. Photo: UN Women/Lauren Rooney

Learn more about Sayeed Ahmed

Anyone can lead by example. What can you do?

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International Women's Day 2021