8 March 2018

Secretary-General Declares ‘Time Is Now’ for Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment, in Remarks on International Day

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the International Women’s Day observance, in New York today:

I am delighted to be with you to celebrate the activism and transformative power of women and girls.  We are at a pivotal moment for women’s rights.

For decades, women have been calling for the equality that is their right.  And today, they are shaking the pillars of patriarchy.  They are telling their stories and provoking important and necessary conversations.  Everywhere, women are saying “the time is now”.  Time for equality and opportunity, respect and equal representation.  Time for an end to violence.

Around the world, women and girls are calling out the abusive behaviour and discriminatory attitudes they face everywhere and all the time.   They are insisting on lasting change.  This is what women and girls want.  And that is what I want.  And it is what every sensible man and boy should want.  First, because gender equality is a fundamental human right.  But, also, because there is no better path to a more peaceful and prosperous world than the empowerment of women and girls.

Power is at the heart of the matter.  As we still live in a male-dominated world with male-dominated culture, and until power is fairly shared, the world will remain out of balance.  Gender inequality, discrimination and violence against women harm us all.

There is overwhelming evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies and countries.  Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous.  And that is why the empowerment of women and girls is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Gender equality is the unfinished business of our time.  And so, the time is now to change it.

We have seen significant advances since the first International Women’s Day in 1976.  More girls in school.  More women doing paid work.  And harmful practices like female genital mutilation and child marriage in decline.  But, we still need to break the structural barriers that women and girls face — unpaid care work, unequal pay, harmful stereotypes, discrimination and violence.

When we look at the low numbers of women in senior roles in the private sector, academia, politics and in international organizations, including in the United Nations, we all have to say:  we can and must do more.  That is why I am determined to achieve gender parity throughout the United Nations.

For the first time ever, we have now parity in the Organization’s senior management team, the top level of this Organization, and we are very close to reach it in relation to the leaders of United Nations country teams, around the world.  I expect to reach this objective at least this April and hopefully still this month.

I am determined to maintain this momentum.  I am also totally committed to zero tolerance of sexual harassment.  I am improving reporting and accountability and trying to establish confidence, empowered people who experience or witness harassment to come forward and seek justice.  These are the kinds of actions we need in every sector.

All around the world we need to listen to the women and girls who are rightly proclaiming their rights.  We must join together as partners — women and girls, men and boys — to make gender equality a reality for all.

Our aspirations for a world of peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all depend on it.  So, on this International Women’s Day, let us demand gender equality and women’s empowerment together.  Let us declare loud and clear “the time is now”.

For information media. Not an official record.