– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly

11 March 2019

Your Excellency, Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, President of the Commission on the Status of Women,

Your Excellency, Ambassador Inga Rhonda King, President of ECOSOC,

Your Excellency Marlène Schiappa, President of the Security Council,

Esteemed António Guterres, Secretary General,

Esteemed Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN-Women,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

In particular I would like to most affectionately greet the young people, the women human rights defenders and the fierce women that are present here at the General Assembly.

Welcome to New York and to this General Assembly, our parliament of humanity.

Firstly, allow me to express my grief and condolences to the families and the victims of the flight that crashed yesterday in Ethiopia, with several members of the UN family amongst them. I also wish to express my support to the Governments and peoples of Ethiopia and Kenya and to the countries who lost their citizens in this terrible tragedy.


We are here today to make our voices be heard, once again, for the rights of women, to acknowledge our triumphs and progress, but also we have gathered to defend the victims of violence and discrimination. We are here for the millions of women and girls whose rights and dreams are denied daily, and who are condemned to suffer poverty and marginalization.

The world will not be better if we continue to exclude half of its population. Therefore, I wish to acknowledge the central role of the Commission on the Status of Women and all of you, to transform this reality

For two weeks, this forum opens a space for dialogue, to bring together hundreds of government, UN and civil society representatives and women human rights defenders.

Here, women from every part of the world, in all their diversity, can find a space to share their experiences, their frustrations, to insist in their demands and needs. The shared objective that unites us is, undoubtedly: strengthening our commitment with equality and the affirmation of the rights of women.

The standards and policies established by the Commission, every year, are fundamental to strengthen the agenda of equality and link it to sustainable development and human rights and to act on it.

Preserving and strengthening this Commission is vital to move forward. Even more so when, one year away from celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, various forms of violence, discrimination and intolerance are apparently reappearing within societies, jeopardizing the rights that women have conquered.  We cannot allow ourselves to go back. We must be vigilant.

In this period of sessions, a topic of great relevance gathers us: social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure as tools to attain gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

It is vital to have a cross-cutting gender approach in their design and implementation, as well as considering the specific needs and challenges of women such as: women with disabilities; elderly women; afro descendant women, indigenous and rural women; migrant women, refugee women and internally displaced women.

The topics of financing, accountability and the participation of women will be critical in the discussions that will be held during these two weeks. 


Although it might seem commonplace to point out that women are essential for sustainable development, it is important to say it over and over, because we are clearly not doing enough to guarantee their full participation and take advantage of their contributions. What’s worrying is that, if the current trend persists, we risk not achieving Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda.

The figures, in all fields, are heartbreaking: every day around 830 women die due to preventable causes related to pregnancy and birth. And every year, 3 million girls are at risk of been subjected to female genital mutilation.

In labour terms, women continue to earn lower salaries for the same jobs –approximately, a woman must work ten more years to earn the same salary a man does–.

One in every three women and girls has experienced some form of physical of sexual violence. However, we also have encouraging news: last December, the General Assembly adopted the first Resolution to prevent and eliminate sexual harassment as well as all forms of violence against women and girls.

One of the priorities of my mandate as President of the General Assembly is gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. On each of my activities, in my official visits, in every space and opportunity I have made sure to put gender equality and the rights of women at the center of all dialogues, commitments and decisions

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies, dear friends,

We cannot set aside the historical and structural unequal power relations between women and men that can broaden the existing gender gaps and even perpetuate inequality and exclusion.

Therefore, one of the priorities of my mandate as President of the General Assembly is gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. On each of my activities, in my official visits, in every space and opportunity I have made sure to put gender equality and the rights of women at the center of all dialogues, commitments and decisions.

The challenges we face are many, but everything will be easier if we achieve a greater participation of women in policy making and in power. We need more women making decisions to reduce the gaps of inequality.

That is precisely why I have convened the High Level Event on “Women in Power” for tomorrow, March 12. It will be a historic day -and why not? – a new moment to revitalize our equality agenda. Time is of the essence and we must act promptly.


I wish you a very fruitful session and I invite you to persist and not give up. We must act, we must do, we must weave, we must transform, which is something that we, women, know very well. Working together, women and men, we can build the societies we all deserve to live in: fairer, more inclusive, more sustainable and more peaceful societies.

Thank you.