– As delivered –

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

12 June 2019

Your Excellency, Mr. Luis Gallegos Chiriboga of Ecuador,

Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women,

Excellencies,

Colleagues and friends,

I am delighted to participate in this High-Level Meeting of Persons with Disabilities in Political and Public Leadership: Towards Beijing+25.

It brings together two issues that are close to my heart: empowering women and girls, and persons with disabilities. I have worked on these issues for many years – indeed, it was Ecuador that proposed the appointment of a UN Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility in 2013 – and they have been priorities for my Presidency. So I thank you and commend you on this important initiative.

It is high time that we focus on the gender-disability-leadership nexus. An estimated one in five women lives with disabilities. And yet, these women are often invisible. They face multiple barriers to inclusion.

They are missing from the statistics we use. And where data does exist, the picture is grim. For example, data from 51 countries shows that only 20 percent of women with disabilities are employed, compared with over half of men with disabilities and 30 percent of women without disabilities.

And the situation is particularly bad when it comes to abuse. Overall, children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence – and three times more likely to be victims of sexual violence. The risk is consistently higher for deaf, blind and autistic girls. Studies have indicated that in some communities, as many as a quarter of women with intellectual disabilities have been raped.

If we are serious about addressing these issues, we must boost dramatically the number of women with disabilities in leadership roles, particularly in the political and public spheres. They are the best advocates and change agents – not only for other women, not only for others with disabilities – but for the wider political, economic and social transformations we need to deliver the 2030 Agenda and make good on our promise to leave no one behind.

That is why I organized the first-ever High-Level Event on Women in Power in March. That is why I hosted the High-Level Event on Disability-Inclusive Development. And that is why this declaration is so important.

It is high time that we focus on the gender-disability-leadership nexus. An estimated one in five women lives with disabilities. And yet, these women are often invisible. They face multiple barriers to inclusion.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

Nearly 25 years ago, the Beijing Platform for Action included targets on empowering women and girls with disabilities. Since then, much has been achieved – including through the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the 2030 Agenda.

But much remains to be done. For example, while it is excellent that 178 Member States are now party to the CRPD, we should strive for universal ratification. In February, I wrote to those states that remain outside the treaty and encouraged them to ratify or accede.

We must also ensure that persons with disabilities are front and center at the July High-Level Political Forum, when we discuss inclusive growth and education, reducing inequalities and promoting inclusive societies. We will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals unless we harness the contributions of the one billion people who have disabilities.

And we must use the opportunity provided by Beijing+25 to put us on track to a disability-inclusive, gender-equal, and brighter future for us all.

Thank you.