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Gender inequality’s 2030 ‘expiration date’

At the historic Apollo Theatre in New York, UN Women yesterday launched a year-long campaign to spark global dialogue and actions on women’s rights and gender equality. The Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it! campaigncommemorates the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing which set a path-breaking agenda on women’s rights in 1995.

In the packed theatre and to thunderous applause, UN officials, feminist activists, celebrities and performers took the stage and brought the audience to their feet as they raised their voices in support of the UN Women campaign, which aims to celebrate the achievements of the last 20 years, while underlining the gaps that remain across the world in advancing the women’s agenda.

 

“Our goal is to rekindle the spirit of Beijing to re-energize all of us in our work to advance women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Rousing the crowds, she added “the vision laid out in Beijing, with 12 critical areas of concern for women, still resonates deeply around the world. It is still unfinished business.”

 

Urging participation from all corners of the world and society, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson emphasized the need to fulfil the Beijing promise. “The essence of the Beijing vision is that equality for women and girls, equal rights, equal opportunities and equal participation will build a better world for us all … Remember: nobody can do everything – but everybody can do something.  Let’s go to work!”

 

The Beijing+20 campaign was kicked off online in May, and has already galvanized a global audience of 40 million, with media, civil society organizations and individuals actively engaged in a re-energized conversation.

 

Legendary feminist activist Gloria Steinem got a standing ovation as she reminded the audience how women’s rights underpinned every society: “The human race is like a bird with two wings, and if one wing is broken, no one can fly.”

 

Punctuated by compelling performances by internationally renowned young women’s theatre and dance troupe Girl Be Heard, ensemble musicians’ group Women of the World, Grammy award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin, and award-winning poet-actor Carlos Andrés Gómez, the evening brought together over 1,200 people from the UN, civil society, media, and the private sector.

 

At the unique event which brought the UN into the heart of the city and community, Maya Wiley, Consul to the Mayor of New York, underlined a critical pre-requisite, saying: “For our city to rise and prosper, 54 per cent of its population cannot be marginalized. We must stand up. Women need access to quality childcare and flexible working. They need support so they can realize their ambitions and provide for their families.”

 

As UN Member States define a new global development framework by 2015, the year-long Beijing+20 campaign aims to ignite global discourse and renew political commitment to accelerate implementation of the comprehensive affirmation of women’s rights and empowerment adopted in 1995 by 189 governments, which remains only partially fulfilled. Major events in all regions of the world as well as online debates on issues ranging from human rights to climate change and economy will review the gains made and the gaps that remain, identifying mechanisms to accelerate real and transformative change in women’s lives.

 

“If you involve and include women you will have a much better society and you will also have equality, peace and prosperity,” said Norwegian Minister of Defense Ine Eriksen Søreide, at the event.

 

“Gender Equality is not Mission Impossible,” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka told the crowd, “it is the mission for our time!”

 

Opening remarks by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the launch event for UN Women’s Beijing+20 campaign, at the Apollo Theatre, New York, 26 June 2014.

 

We are here to highlight the start of a campaign that commemorates 20 years since the world came together at the Fourth World Conference on Women.

We celebrate what is still the most comprehensive affirmation of women’s rights and empowerment adopted in 1995 by 189 governments.

To kick off this campaign, we are taking the UN outside of our offices and bringing it to the community where it will always belong, with the people. I thank you for joining us!

We are here at this historic Apollo Theatre for an evening of reflection, resolve, celebration and performance. Our goal is to rekindle the spirit of Beijing to re-energize all of us in our work to advance women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality.

The vision laid out in Beijing with 12 critical areas of concern for women still resonates deeply around the world. It is still unfinished business.

We need to do more to:

 Reduce women’s share of poverty

Improve access to health and education

 End violence against women

Ensure women’s full participation in decision-making

 Ensure women’s equal opportunities in the economy

 Remove gender stereotypes and increase women’s role in the media, and

 Protect the human rights of all women and girls.

So this is our work-in-progress.

Today we mourn the loss of a human rights defender, our sister, Salwa Bughaigis, who embodied the vision of Beijing. She was assassinated yesterday in Benghazi, Libya. We condemn this murder. We will continue the work of Salwa, for the rights and the full participation of women in every country.

Since we kicked off this campaign online a few weeks ago, we have reached a global audience of 40 million people on social media.

Now we are calling on people in all corners of the world to join us over the next year to be engaged!

Our campaign has the title “Empowering women, empowering humanity: Picture It!”

Picture 5, 10, 15 years from now a world in which life is much better for women and girls and therefore better for humanity!

In the 20th century and since the Beijing Women’s Conference, we have seen many changes in all parts of the world. Globally, 139 constitutions include guarantees on gender equality, 125 countries outlaw domestic violence, and 117 outlaw sexual harassment in the workplace.

Twenty years ago, 11 per cent of parliamentarians were women. Today nearly 22 per cent of MPs are women. Progress yes, but we need more and faster.

Twenty years ago, 40 per cent of women were engaged in wage and salaried employment. Today 48 per cent of women do. Progress yes, but too slow and too little.

Twenty years ago, less than 75 per cent of girls were enrolled in primary school. Today 90 per cent of girls are.

Twenty years ago, twice as many women died in pregnancy and childbirth. But still 800 women die every day and most of these deaths could be prevented.

Today the prevalence of female genital mutilation is declining but 30 million girls are at risk of being cut during the next decade.

Today all countries in the world have alarming figures on violence against women; one in three women in the world lives with physical and sexual violence.

Today all countries in the world have a pay gap between men and women and women continue to perform the vast majority of low paid and unpaid care work.

While progress has been made in the past century and the past 20 years, no country in the world has reached absolute and full gender equality.

We salute the countries that have made progress and all the efforts made by all nations. We salute the women of the world for their triumphs. We welcome men and boys as partners in this fight for gender equality –a fight they must own and give it their all.

I have no doubt this is a huge task but it is not a mission impossible. It is the mission of our time.

We can be 21st century game-changers! And together we can cross the line.

I remember as if it were yesterday the world coming together to end apartheid in my home country of South Africa.

If the people of the world from all walks of life from Presidents to CEOs to Sports people, Artists, Youth and YOU and ME do what the freedom-loving people of the world did for South Africa to help end apartheid, gender inequality will be history.

The date being contemplated by our Member States to aim to end this injustice is, and I quote:

To achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, we are setting our sights on this date of 2030. We are giving gender inequality an expiry date, by 2030.

This should be the beginning of the end of gender inequality.

We launch this Beijing +20 campaign! This road map to 2030 with you here today, in the Apollo Theatre, in Harlem, to strengthen our collective resolve! Let us make this a reality!

 

Source: UN Women 

 

 

 

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