International Women’s Day 2018
– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at UN Observance of International Women’s Day 2018
Excellencies, Mr. Secretary-General, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour to participate in this event.
We are meeting to observe this year’s International Women’s Day. And we are doing so at an interesting time.
A time in which inequalities are under serious threat. A time in which power no longer guarantees impunity. And a time in which silence is not as easily enforced.
This makes today’s discussion more crucial than ever.
And, in helping to open it, I would like to make three main points.
The first is that we are doing more.
We are enacting more laws to protect women, and to strengthen their social and financial agency. We are designing more policies, which propel women forward in the workplace. We are marching more. We are speaking out more.
And, as a result, we are seeing more equality. This is particularly true, given where we are meeting today. Because, thanks to the Secretary-General, the United Nations has now reached gender parity among the top management, for the first time. And, we are seeing moves in this direction, in other industries and sectors.
But, we should not spend too much time celebrating.
Because, as my second point, I want to say that what we are doing is, still, not enough.
For every woman who speaks out, there are too many others, forced into silence. For every woman who enjoys her human rights, there are too many others, still fighting for their own. And, for every woman who lives in safety, there are too many others, living in fear.
1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. More than 700 million women, living today, were married before their 18th birthday. And, our world is still not led by as many women as men. Only 22 countries have women as their heads of state or government. And, women represent only 23% of all parliamentarians, worldwide.
We can even see this disparity, here, in the General Assembly hall. When I became President of the General Assembly, I was committed to ensuring a gender balance among the Assembly’s many processes. And I have to tell you: this was not easy to do. When it came to appointing women, we had a small pool to draw from. Because, only 20% of the Ambassadors sent to represent their countries at the UN are women.
And, so, we have work to do. Which is my third point today.
We need to reinvigorate our focus on gender. And, the United Nations must lead the way. We need even more cooperation and efforts to empower women, and advance gender equality. And we need to mainstream gender throughout everything else we do – from peacekeeping, to the promotion of human rights. We cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, or peace, if half of our global population is denied both rights and opportunities. This means that every effort, towards every Sustainable Development Goal, must ensure women’s participation and equality.
There are too many women – particularly young women, and women in rural areas – who have innovative ideas and solutions. But they have not been given the platform to turn them into action.
So, we have more work to do. And today is great opportunity to start.
We can no longer call for gender equality, without following our calls with action. We can no longer speak out for women’s rights, without speaking out when they are violated. We can no longer agree that action is needed, without taking it ourselves.
We can no longer call for gender equality, without following our calls with action. We can no longer speak out for women’s rights, without speaking out, even louder, when they are violated. And we can no longer agree that action is needed, without taking it ourselves.
And so, I want to join other voices by saying: Time. Is. Now.
Thank you very much.
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