“All in all – progress – but not enough… and too slow …” Those were the words of UN Women’s Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
She was speaking on the occasion of a High Level Meeting to mark the 25th anniversary of the Fourth Conference on Women – otherwise referred to as the Beijing Platform of Action.
In an event featuring the UN’s Secretary General, heads of state and government including China’s Xi Jinping and President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mlambo-Ngcuka acknowledged the advances made since 1995 but warned that women’s leadership was vital in the face of urgent need to rebuild better after COVID-19.
As a case in point, Mlambo-Ngucka provided a snapshot of progress.
In Beijing in 1995 when then US First Lady Hillary Clinton famously said women’s rights are human rights and vise versa – there were just 12 women heads of state or government. Today we have 22 out of 193 countries.
“Women’s leadership, including young women, is vital in the face of urgent need to rebuild better after COVID-19. Women and the people of the world are demanding these changes. In the Decade of Action and in the context of the SDGs there is no longer any excuse for these imbalances. Multilateralism and the UN are indispensable; women believe in it, and that it must become even more inclusive.”
She indicated that women were now demanding a leapfrog to 50% representation or parity in all spheres – from government to boardrooms to peace negotiations, to closing the digital divide – a call for bold steps not incremental ones.
“This is the time for disrupters, young and old. Time for actions to change the course of history for women and girls, especially women between the ages of 25 to 34 who are increasingly more likely to live in extreme poverty than their male counterparts. It’s time to bring an end to discriminatory laws, norms and homophobia, to end men’s violence against women and girls, and make a concerted effort to put women at the heart of climate justice.”
UN Chief Antonio Guterres – has called gender equality the greatest human rights challenge facing the globe today: