13 March 2017

Full, Equal Participation of Women Vital in Shaping Growth of Cities, Deputy Secretary-General Says, at Event on New Urban Agenda

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed's remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the event on women’s role in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda: harnessing and strengthening sustainable urbanization using participatory methodologies for women and youth empowerment, in New York today:

I am pleased to join you at the outset of what we hope will be a very productive session of the Commission on the Status of Women.  As it happens, this is one of the first major events to take place since I have taken up my duties as Deputy Secretary-General.  I can think of no better place to start that work than here with you as we press together for the empowerment of the world’s women and girls.

Let me also stress that you have a strong ally in our Secretary-General, António Guterres, who shared some of his vision this morning and who recognizes women’s rights as a goal unto itself and a means for realizing all our hopes for peace and prosperity everywhere, for everyone.

The New Urban Agenda is a crucial piece of the picture.  Given the megatrend of rapid urbanization, achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will depend, in large part, on whether we can make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Gender equality is central to the New Urban Agenda.  While cities are powerful engines of development and innovation, they are also home to slums and many millions of vulnerable women and girls.  The call from the Secretary General is clear.  We should not only focus on the needs of women and girls, but also empower women to deliver on their potential.  That potential is immense.

Women in cities are agents of change in many ways:  within the family, in the workplace, in politics and in public spaces.  They should be full and equal participants in shaping the way cities grow and in designing housing policies, economic opportunities, transportation systems, services, streets, parks and so much else.  All too often, this is an uphill battle.

Our shared advocacy over the years has produced an inspiring set of commitments and measures.  Those efforts need to continue.  We also need strong accountability mechanisms to hold decision-makers answerable for their actions, and seek redress when necessary.  Women’s groups, grass-roots organizations and civil society will continue to be invaluable partners.

Allow me to call your attention to one example that shows how even modest investments can bring wide-ranging impacts.  The Community Development Committee in Mtwapa, Kenya, gave women an equal voice to men.  Four of the seven projects funded were implemented by solely women groups, the other three by youth groups with young women and men.  We should all be inspired by what ensued.

Tenure and social protection were improved.  Lights were placed in public spaces.  New water kiosks, managed by women, dramatically reduced the time spent on water collection.  And a training and skills centre was established, giving new skills and hope to unemployed young mothers.  We see clearly that inclusive and participatory approaches to sustainable urbanization can make a real difference.

Given today’s focus on participatory methodologies, I also want to emphasize the importance of women and girls in data and monitoring efforts.  We know that local-level data is essential for implementation of the SDGs, and that we can only address what we have measured.  We need to ensure that all urban dwellers are captured in city-level data, and women and girls have a key leadership role to play in these efforts in their communities.

Lastly, allow me to stress the importance of safety in public spaces.  I am committed to work towards a UN system that is fit for purpose and that helps deliver results on these ambitious agendas.  Thank you for your commitment to this important work.

For information media. Not an official record.