Gender Equality Will Not Be Reached Only by Passing New Laws, but Rather by Making ‘Real Changes in the Real World’, Says Deputy Secretary-General at Baku Conference

24 May 2010

Gender Equality Will Not Be Reached Only by Passing New Laws, but Rather by Making ‘Real Changes in the Real World’, Says Deputy Secretary-General at Baku Conference

24 May 2010
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Gender Equality Will Not Be Reached Only by Passing New Laws, but Rather by Making


‘Real Changes in the Real World’, Says Deputy Secretary-General at Baku Conference


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the seventh Council of Europe Conference of Ministers Responsible for Equality between Women and Men, in Baku, Azerbaijan, 24 May:

It is a great pleasure to be with you today.  I congratulate the Council of Europe for directing the focus of this meeting to be on how we achieve change for women and girls — real changes in the real world.  As the theme of this conference calls for, we need to bridge the gap between de jure and de facto gender equality.

I also thank the Azerbaijani authorities for their hospitality.  Baku is an ideal city in which to consider these questions.

You gather at a time of transition for Azerbaijan, and for Baku as well.  The Old City is a reminder of your past.  Yet, new developments provide convenient spaces in which to live and work.  And I am confident that this in turn will help create a positive and more prosperous future for all of this country’s citizens.  Equality between women and men is a vital element of that process.

2010 is a significant year for women and girls the world over.

First, we are marking 15 years since the Beijing World Conference on Women, which reached landmark agreements on basic policies and standards for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Second, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a high-level meeting in September on accelerating progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Gender equality and women’s empowerment are key to progress across this agenda.

Third, in October, the international community will mark the tenth anniversary of the groundbreaking Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  This resolution reflected a new and important consensus that women’s participation is vital to achieve sustainable peace, security and development.

These events — and this Conference — are excellent opportunities to assess progress, to mobilize political will and to forge strategic partnerships in order to close the gap between words and actions.

After all, it is not only through passing laws and making commitments that we change the lives of girls and women.  It is through making real changes in the real world.

Great progress has been made across the globe in promoting equality between women and men.

Numerous States have repealed discriminatory laws.  They have started including the principle of equality between women and men in national constitutions and laws.

Women’s participation in the labour force has reached a new high.

We have seen in many countries a movement to end segregation in the workplace, and to address the unequal distribution of unpaid domestic and care work.

Governments have introduced measures to support women’s equal access to credit and land rights.

Access to education has increased for girls at all levels, particularly in primary schools.

Many countries now have laws and policies aimed at ending violence against women and girls, and supporting survivors.

We are also seeing improvements in addressing and preventing maternal mortality.  No woman should have to pay with her life to give life.

Women are participating more regularly in peace processes, as well as peacebuilding and reconstruction efforts.

The number of women in public life has increased, partly because of quotas and other targeted measures.

But still, we must do more.  A number of cross-cutting concerns are holding back progress.

They include the persistence of gender stereotypes; continued discrimination and violence against women and girls; inadequate participation of women in decision-making processes; insufficient inclusion of men and boys in the promotion of gender equality; and inadequate funding.

We should build on proven strategies and promising policies to address these concerns.

This will require political commitment and leadership at all levels.

The Secretary-General has made gender equality and the empowerment of women one of his top priorities.

He is backing the creation of a single United Nations entity for women, to replace the four different bodies which now deal with gender issues.

This would give women and girls a strong, unified voice on the world stage.

It would enable us to better support national priorities.

Our hope is to see this entity up and running in the months ahead.

Your political backing, ladies and gentlemen, is critical.

The Secretary-General is also leading the fight against impunity for gender-based violence, including through his campaign “UNiTE to End Violence against Women”.  He has also launched a “Network of Men Leaders” who will add their voices in the hope of increasing both awareness and accountability.

But leadership and United Nations action alone are not enough.  The active involvement of Governments, civil society and, in particular, women’s groups and organizations, international and regional organizations, as well as the private sector, is crucial.

Laws and policies are the foundation for action, and the establishment of gender-mainstreaming strategies is critical for the promotion of gender equality across all sectors and in all areas of public policy.

But we also need improved monitoring, reporting, impact assessments and accountability.

We need not only to prevent violence against women, but to address its root cause — that is, discrimination against women.

We need the resources that will bring life to national development plans and poverty-reduction strategies.

We need the priorities and concerns of women and girls to be systematically and effectively taken into account across all policy areas.

We also need the media to step up.  Thankfully, women are increasingly participating in the media sector.  Measures have been taken in all regions to encourage the media to play an active role in promoting gender equality.  But more is needed to make the media environment and industry more inclusive and gender-sensitive.

On a daily basis, and the world over, mass media influence their audiences’ ideas of what it means to be masculine and feminine — of what is acceptable behaviour for men and for women — sadly, often resorting to destructive gender stereotypes in the process.  Such stereotyping, in turn, feeds into the gender discrimination which is a root cause of violence against women and girls.

If we are to succeed in preventing and ending the global pandemic of violence against women and girls, we must, therefore, put an end in mass media to one-dimensional gender portrayal and negative depictions of the role of women in society.

I commend the Council of Europe for the focus and impetus it has given to addressing the gender-equality gap.

We are all determined to finish the task set out in Beijing in 1995; that is, to achieve the goals of equality, development and peace for all women, everywhere.

This conference is an important step on that path.

I wish you success in your deliberations and I hope that you will bring back to your Governments and parliaments the messages emanating from this gathering in Baku, and that with energy and dynamism you will continue to advocate for their full realization.

* *** *

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