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UN celebrates Women's Day, envisages generation equality

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-03-07 15:47
[Photo/unwomen.org]

The United Nations (UN) on Friday celebrated the Internatioanl Women's Day in an observance that called for more headway in women's rights toward Generation Equality.

The observance, themed "I am Generation Equality: Realizing women's rights," saw the participation of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, and Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee.

"Gender inequality is the overwhelming injustice of this age and the biggest human rights challenge the world faces," said Guterres at the observance.

Recalling his own words "gender equality is a question of power," the UN chief said that men have used and abused power to control women and prevent them from achieving their potential for thousands of years, and deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny have created a yawning gender power gap in economies, political systems, corporations, societies and culture.

He said in recent months, high-profile peace agreements have been signed without any women at the table, and emergency healthcare meetings on the novel coronavirus were convened with few or no women, despite that women make up the majority of the healthcare workforce.

On a positive note, the secretary-general pointed to changes in recent years.

He cited women's movements that are protesting femicide, demanding equal pay, and calling out powerful men for violence and abuse.

In particular, he said, young women are redefining what power looks like. "They are creating new, inclusive forms of leadership that unite people across borders and around common goals."

Addressing the young leaders in the audience, Guterres said "we need your passion and conviction as we face a whole range of global challenges, from climate change to conflict."

"Generation Equality cannot be Generation Gradual Improvement or Generation Incremental Change. Generation Equality means equal rights and opportunities for all women and girls, now," he said, shedding light on the theme of the observance.

Marin, for her part, said that the world cannot achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out in the 2030 Agenda without achieving SDG5 -- gender equality.

The female leader said as the UN launched a Decade of Action for the SDGs, the world needs to ensure that every human being has their rights respected and can reach their full potential for the goals to be fulfilled.

As the world's youngest serving prime minister, 34-year-old Marin said: "We, as world leaders, have all the tools needed to make changes that secure the future we want," demonstrating her commitment to Generation Equality.

She went on to lament that the number of female heads of state and government is only 21, while there are 193 UN member states and more than half of the global population are women and girls.

Taking pride in her country's lead in gender equality, she recalled that Finland was the first country in the world to grant women full political rights, both the right to vote and the right to run for office. Currently, women lead all the five parties in Finland coalition government and four of those leaders are under the age of 35.

However, Marin underscored that no country in the world has achieved gender equality, and "Finland is no exception," noting that the Nordic country faces inequalities in the labor market and violence against women and girls, which she proposed policy solutions to tackle.

UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande asked everyone, everywhere to uphold gender equality as a necessity in upholding human rights.

Twenty-five years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, which remains the most comprehensive global agenda for achieving gender equality, all UN member states should work assiduously to implement it, he said in a video message for the observance.

"We have made important gains since 1995: there are more girls in school than ever before, and many countries have reached gender parity in educational enrolment. However, no country can claim to have achieved gender equality, especially in terms of income and political leadership," he said.

Change has been slow for most women and girls in the world and there is much work to do, said Muhammad-Bande.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who made closing remarks for the event, said "women only occupy 25 percent of the space in power and in places of influence," citing a newly-released report by her office.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said, "75 percent of the parliamentary seats are held by men, 73 percent of managerial positions are held by man, and 70 percent of climate negotiators are men."

"So there's the 25 percent that we're being squeezed into today. We are breaking out. We want too much the 50 percent, and we want to work together to achieve that 50 percent," said the UN Women chief.

She said the new report also shows that change is possible. "If you were not pushing against the pushback, things would be much worse. So we cannot and should not be discouraged. It has to be forward ever, and backward never."

The 64th session the Commission on the Status of Women, set to be held here Monday, will adopt a political declaration to reaffirm the international commitment to improving women's rights, Mlambo-Ngcuka added.

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