Remarks at the Launch of
The Future She Deserves
As Prepared for Delivery
This year, we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the First World Conference on Women in Mexico City, and the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
In 1975, the First World Conference was convened to unite the international community, as discrimination against women continued to be a persistent problem in much of the world. Goals were set, and action plans were developed, focusing on full gender equality, full participation of women in development, and increased contribution by women in the strengthening of world peace.
While international efforts over the next 20 years helped to improve women’s conditions, the basic structure of inequality between men and women remained in place. Fortunately, due to a massive outpouring of engagement, the 1995 Beijing conference sparked a renewed global commitment to the empowerment of women, and the re-evaluation of the entire structure of society.
Fast forward again. We’ve made real progress over the past twenty years, and many of you here are responsible for that progress. Women are better represented in parliaments and boardrooms around the world. More girls are enrolled in primary and secondary school than ever before. The range of health services available to women has increased substantially. The international community has combined its resources – largely through UN agencies – to support countless innovative approaches to supporting women and girls around the world.
In 2000, the UN Security Council passed a landmark Resolution on Women, Peace and Security. Ten years later, UN Women was created. Last year, it launched the HeForShe Initiative as a direct call to action for men to support gender equality.
BUT, despite twenty years of progress, women still own only 1% of the world’s wealth, have only a 10% share of global income, and occupy only 14% of leadership positions in the public and private sectors.
In addition, the unfortunate reality is that far too many women and girls around the world still face violence each and every day. One in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. One in 20, more than 12 million women, in the EU have been raped. In the U.S., statistics show that the incidence of rape is equally high and equally shocking…on average, one woman in the United States is sexually assaulted every two minutes. Stop and think – dozens of lives have been shattered by sexual violence in the U.S. in the short time we have been in this room together.
Adolescent girls in particular face the most serious inequalities and are uniquely at risk to deplorable practices, including child marriage, human trafficking, and female genital mutilation. Every year, 60 million girls are sexually assaulted at or on their way to school.
I think you will agree…it’s time for another spark. Let’s commit to igniting that spark. Right here and right now!.
I have invited you here today to help us launch a new initiative focused on protecting and empowering Women and Girls…it’s called The Future She Deserves. Women and girls around the world DESERVE better treatment, better opportunities, and a better future.
I believe we have a critical role to play here in Geneva. In fact, we don’t just have a role…we have a responsibility. Geneva is a unique multilateral arena, where organizations with diverse mandates work in parallel, with similar goals of improving lives and promoting the economic and social advancement of all people. Time and again, research and experience has shown that holistic, multi-sector responses lead to better outcomes for women and girls, and therefore for their families and for their communities.
We must seize Geneva’s unique multilateral advantage, and push ourselves to think innovatively – to envision creative ways for collaboration that will unleash new opportunities for women and girls, and new means of protecting these especially vulnerable populations.
I know this concept isn’t groundbreaking. Last year, I attended the Third WMO Gender Conference – which brought together experts from WMO, WHO, UN Women, UNESCO and UNFCCC – to address the “Gender Dimension of Weather and Climate Services” with the tagline “The Benefits of Working Together.” Well, I believe these benefits are many, and this type of collaboration will be at the heart of The Future She Deserves.
Why not bring the ILO, ITU, CERN and UNCTAD together to truly break down the barriers that cause women and girls to remain terribly underrepresented in STEM education and in science and technology fields?
Or why not bring together UNHCR, ITU and the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers or Forum of Young Global Leaders to put a cell phone in the hands of millions of women refugees, so that they have better access to much needed social and financial services?
These are just two ideas, but if we put our minds to it, the possibilities for cross-cutting collaboration are endless.
Over the past few months, we hosted a series of consultations with diplomatic and international partners, in fact we spoke with many of you, to better understand current initiatives, gaps and opportunities for engagement across different sectors and entities. These discussions identified four key areas where we believe we can have a significant positive impact. Our four pillars are:
- To ensure adolescent girls have access to the full range of appropriate health services. With the far-reaching work of UNAIDS and WHO, and because the World Health Assembly brings together hundreds of health ministry officials from around the world, we have an opportunity to change the nature of care for girls at local and global levels.
- To enhance opportunities to prevent and respond to gender-based violence against women and girls. Ending violence against women is everyone’s responsibility, not just the gender experts. In our multilateral work, whenever and wherever we see gender-based violence, we all need to do whatever it takes to stop it! It’s that simple.
- To economically empower women and girls, including through improved access to trade and entrepreneurship. For every marginal dollar a woman earns, she invests 90 cents back into her family. And when you empower women and girls – through access to education, technology and capital, you unlock the full potential of entire societies.
- To develop and promote gender-equal leadership opportunities, including gender parity within the UN. Organizations need to overhaul strategies and policies for recruitment, promotion, and retention to better meet the needs of women and families. Women need more opportunities to build networks and greater access to female leaders who can serve as mentors and role models.
You will have the opportunity to learn more about the specifics of these pillars at each of the four stations in the room.
But first, now that you have a better basic understanding of The Future She Deserves, I’d like to make a personal Call to Action: As I’ve mentioned, Geneva presents a unique platform – leading international organizations, an engaged diplomatic community, technical expertise, scientific data, an active NGO community – all of which we intend to capitalize on. Let’s stop doing “business as usual” when we know we can do better. This initiative is meant to provide the platform, to expand on existing programs and relationships, so that we all can engage on a higher level. Our goals are aspirational and actionable, and we will be focusing on measurable results throughout the year. But for this initiative to truly succeed, we need you to share your innovative ideas with us, we need you to help us identify partnership opportunities, to reach back to your capitals, to reach out to your networks, to commit your organizations, but most importantly, to make a personal commitment – that you will do whatever you can to help each and every woman and girl achieve The Future She Deserves.
As I look out across the room I am pleased to see several men – such as DG Swing, Secretary General Sy, and so many of my male Ambassador colleagues, and of course my own DCM Peter Mulrean – who have made strong personal commitments to be champions for the rights, equality, protection and empowerment of women and girls in the work they do. Because without a doubt, we need the commitment of both men and women in order to succeed in this endeavor. So thank you, gentlemen, for being here today and for your ongoing support.
Recognizing that one or more of the four pillars I outlined may be of particular interest to you, we have arranged the room so that conversations can be grouped by theme. Please grab another drink, then I encourage you to visit the various tables – identified by their colorful banners – to speak with our experts about specific objectives and to learn more about the events we have planned and how you can engage most effectively.
Gender equality, gender gaps, gender parity, gender lens, gender mainstreaming….isn’t it time “gender” stops being a side event? Isn’t it time every woman and every girl has the opportunity to follow a clear path to The Future She Deserves? With your commitment, together, we can make that Future a reality.