24 September 2020

Capitalize on ‘Constructive Impatience’ of Young Women to Create Tangible, Lasting Change, Deputy Secretary-General Urges Action Zone Event

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message for the Restless Development United Nations General Assembly Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Action Zone Event “Past, Present, Futures: Intergenerational Resilience Across Beijing +25”, on 24 September:

Dear friends,

It is great to join you as we mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the most visionary agenda for the human rights of women and girls — the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

We have many reasons to celebrate:

•     More girls are in school than ever before;

•     Maternal mortality has decreased significantly;

•     Legal and constitutional reforms have strengthened women’s rights, including the rights to property, land, and protection from discrimination and violence.

However, for many young women and girls, change has been too slow.  To date, no country has achieved gender equality.  And only a few are on track to achieve the goal by 2030:

•     One third of women aged 15 to 24 are not in education, employment or training — more than double the rate of young men.

•     Half a billion women are illiterate and might never get the chance to access education.

•     Women and girls on average do three times as much unpaid care work as men, limiting their time and opportunities for paid work, education, and rest.

It is no secret that COVID-19 has made the lives of young women and girls even more challenging.  Around the world, lockdown measures are placing young women and girls at higher risk of domestic violence even as those same mobility restrictions hinder their ability to seek support services.

In the last six months, most Governments temporarily closed schools and university campuses.  When a school closes, an adolescent girl is at greater risk of sexual abuse and exploitation, early marriage and pregnancy.  Girls who are out of school may never return, stunting their life chances and impeding the development of their communities and societies.  The current crisis could set women’s rights back by decades.  Addressing these injustices is a top priority for the United Nations, and I am inspired by young women’s radical impatience for change to happen — right now.

Over the past decade, feminism has gained a new dynamic and visibility thanks to your activism, the activism of young people.  This new generation, born after the Fourth World Conference on Women, is disrupting the status quo.  You are working not just for a recovery from COVID-19, but a rebuilding that makes societies more inclusive, resilient, greener and equal.  You have been and are at the forefront of global action for change, both in responding to the pandemic and in working to address the systemic inequalities that it has exposed.  We need to capitalize on the constructive impatience you bring to the table to create change that is tangible and lasting.

UN-Women launched the Generation Equality campaign to bring together your generation of gender equality activists with veteran feminists to tackle the entrenched inequality that women and girls face across the world.  The future looks brighter when we bet on intergenerational co-leadership.  Together, in the true spirit of intergenerational partnership, we can cultivate lasting movements of solidarity and consolidate the bold progress that the 2030 Agenda has promised.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.