Tag Archives: Girls

The Secretary General Message on International Day of the Girl

New York, 11 October 2020

This year, we mark the International Day of the Girl against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, and resurgent movements for social justice.

As we strengthen the response to the pandemic and plan for a strong recovery, we have an

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

opportunity to create a better, fairer, more equal world for girls everywhere. The best way to achieve this is by following the leadership of girls themselves.

This year’s theme, “My Voice: Our Equal Future” calls on us to amplify the voices of adolescent girls, and put their needs at the forefront of laws, policies and practices in every country and community around the world.

The gaps between girls and boys remain unacceptably wide. Adolescent girls are locked out of opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), not for lack of talent or ambition — but because they are girls. Globally, the percentage of women among graduates in these subjects is below 15 percent in over two-thirds of countries.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Generation Equality is our global campaign and call to commit to working with and for girls, everywhere.

We must support girls by giving them access to the tools they need to shape their own destinies. That includes the technological skills, connectivity and safety they need to thrive in a digital world.

We can all draw inspiration from the adolescent girls who are taking the lead and shaping better lives for themselves — and for others.

Teenage girls are the new leaders of our time, creating global movements for change. They’re ready for the challenge.

On this International Day of the Girl, let’s stand together with them and for them.

Let’s nourish their talents, amplify their voices and work together for a better, more equal future for us all.

As UN marks 75 years, let us work together to realize the opportunities in African unity

Ms. Fatima Kyari Mohammed is the Permanent Observer and Head of Mission of the African Union to the United Nations. She spoke to Africa Renewal about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, marking a milestone year in the fight for women’s rights and reflections on the African Union’s relationship with the UN in its 75th year. Here are the excerpts:

Ms. Fatima Kyari Mohammed is the Permanent Observer and Head of Mission of the African Union to the United Nations

Ms. Fatima Kyari Mohammed is the Permanent Observer and Head of Mission of the African Union to the United Nations

How is COVID-19 affecting Africa’s priorities such as the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063?

As you are aware, Agendas 2030 and 2063 are very much aligned. Priority areas such as ending poverty and hunger, achieving food security and addressing some of the broader socio-economic challenges in health, education and employment, particularly for the most vulnerable, have been greatly impacted in ways that were not foreseen even a year ago. The pandemic has forced us to refocus our attention in some areas and re-allocate resources. COVID-19 has shown us how interconnected the world is. No individual, country or region is immune to this reality.

How has it impacted your work?

Just like everyone else, we have had to reorganize to ensure we are able to deliver on our commitments and our mandate. We shifted some priorities. It was important to understand the pandemic and its implications and try to overcome the hurdles that come with it.

Africa’s continent-wide response slowed the spread of the pandemic earlier this year. How can the countries better deal with this challenge?   

The advantage for Africa with the pandemic has been two-fold. First, drawing lessons from the Ebola outbreak, many African countries quickly put in place measures for curbing the spread of COVID-19 well ahead of time. Second, in terms of timing, the pandemic hit the continent at a time when many other regions were already going through the worst of it. So, we had ample time to learn from the experiences of others.

Currently, through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the African Union (AU) is supporting public health institutions across the continent through innovation and strategic partnerships.

We are coordinating and providing integrated solutions to our public health systems particularly where there is weak or inadequate infrastructure by offering training and equipment so that countries are better prepared to respond to future health emergencies and disasters.

How can Africa recover better from the pandemic?

The biggest blow for most African countries is that socio-economic gains have been hindered. The impact on economic development is devastating. Beyond the impact on health and education, economic stress on people is of major concern.

Countries should use this experience as an opportunity to rebuild better and stronger. The impact on jobs, businesses, and family incomes means that responses and strategies we put in place must focus on ways and means to support those hardest hit. We need smart investments and policies that can eradicate extreme poverty and provide access and equal opportunities for all.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is making a case for the bridging of inequality in a post-COVID-19 development order. How could the AU, including your office, help actualize the SG’s vision for the benefit of the continent?

Partnership between the AU and the UN is a top priority for us. The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, strongly supports the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for collective action against this scourge and for a global ceasefire. We can only contain the pandemic if we work together. The AU Observer Mission to the UN will continue to support the vision and the priorities of both institutions.

Several studies show that women are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. What is the role of women in the recovery process?

It is true that even before the pandemic hit, we advocated for women’s full participation in decision making. Economies are stronger and peace processes more successful with women’s active participation. Women can achieve success, from the lowest community level and up. I would encourage women to continue to speak up against injustices and for one another. This pandemic has increased incidences of gender-based violence, which should not be tolerated. If we truly want to make a change, we, men and women, must keep advocating, educating and exposing perpetrators of gender-based violence.

2020 is a milestone year for women—with Beijng+25, UNSC Resolution 1325+20, and 15 years since the Maputo Protocol entered into force—all of which challenge old stereotypes about the role of women in society. To what extent have African countries achieved progress in gender equality?

The progress made by Africa since the Beijing 4th Conference on Women in 1995 is commendable, but we still have a long way to go. We have strong, progressive, global and continental policies, strategies and action plans on women, peace and security. Yet women and girls continue to bear the brunt of conflicts in Africa. They are the victims of sexual violence and other forms of abuse and they are underrepresented in peace processes at the local, national and continental levels. The AU’s strategy on gender equality is aligned with the UNSC Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security agenda.

However, implementation still remains a challenge, including the meaningful participation of women in peace and security activities. This milestone should revitalize the need for women’s voices to be heard in the peace and security agenda. There is no doubt that the AU’s partnership with women’s organizations across the continent is the vehicle for concrete actions.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council recently adopted the Continental Framework on Youth, Peace and Security. How do you envisage the role of young people in the attainment of peace and security in Africa?

Despite the adoption of the framework you referred to, we are still at the very beginning of this journey. Today’s youth—the largest generation of young people in history—are marginalized, excluded, exploited and easily drawn into conflict. Many young people, especially young women, lack resources and opportunities to realize their potential and participate in political, peace and security processes. Instead, they are vulnerable, especially during conflicts.

The framework itself reinforces the call for action on youth, peace and security in Africa. Its adoption is a recognition that young people are Africa’s greatest asset. It helps expand possibilities for active youth involvement in decision-making processes as well as planning and programming.

The UN is supporting the AU’s campaign on ‘Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020.’ What does it mean for Africa when the guns are silent and how is your office working with the international community to achieve this goal?

Let me put the question into context: The Silencing the Guns (STGs) in Africa initiative was a pledge by African leaders in May 2013 to end all wars on the continent by 2020. As you know, STGs is a critical element of Africa’s Agenda 2063, and the AU Peace and Security Council later adopted a Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to silence the guns by 2020. The roadmap emphasizes structural interventions in several areas such as socio-economic development, youth and women’s empowerment, employment, education, climate change and governance.

We are working with partners to shift the narrative and ensure sustainable peace on the continent. But we still have a lot of work to do in carrying the international community along. Silencing the guns in Africa means being able to develop and move forward and build a peaceful and prosperous continent for our people.

As the UN turns 75, how critical has the organization been to Africa’s peace, security and development?

The partnership between the AU and UN in peace and security is very relevant.  The two organizations work together in many areas. We have annual consultations, a joint taskforce, we go on joint field visits and carry out mediation efforts. We also cooperate on electoral matters and governance, as well as the protection of human rights, among others.

Africa continues to make a case for more representation on the UN Security Council (UNSC). What is the strongest argument for such a case?

As you are aware, Africa has a common position on the UNSC reform. Africa has consistently made the case for representation in the “Permanent” category of the Council. Also, there is a need for more African representation in the “non-Permanent” category in order to achieve true and meaningful reform of the UN Security Council. Equitable geographical representation in line with the principles, objectives and ideals of the UN Charter can only lead to a fairer and more equitable world.

At any one time, there are three African states holding non-Permanent seats in the UN Security Council, the so-called A3. What would you say are the three top achievements of the A3 in recent times in advancing Africa’s agenda?

First, there has been stronger coordination among the members, particularly in the last couple of years. This has helped in championing Africa’s common positions, interests and concerns on issues of peace and security that are on the UN Security Council’s agenda.

Second, we have now established annual meetings between AUPSC [African Union Peace and Security Council] and the UNSC. It demonstrates a commitment by the two councils to work together on matters of peace and security in Africa. The A3 ensures effective consultations.

Third, the A3 has helped create opportunities for alliances with other member of the UNSC, ensuring that they support our global cause for world peace.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is touted as Africa’s next big thing. Why should Africans be hopeful?

The objective of the AfCFTA is to leverage the opportunity of a huge population of approximately 1.3 billion people and an estimated combined GDP of $3.4 trillion by creating a single market for goods and services, facilitating free movement of goods and people, accelerating investments and potentially establishing a Customs Union.

The AfCFTA could lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035. So, why should African not be hopeful? The AfCFTA is our ambition for collective progress and development. Of course, there are policies and regulatory measures that need to be in place, but some of these are already being put in place in countries and the sub-regions.

What message of hope do you have for Africans during this trying period?

As we mark the 75th year of the UN, we must reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic and work together in combating it and cooperating for sustainable recovery. As I said earlier, the pandemic has exposed many gaps, but it has also reinforced the fact that we live in an interconnected world. As Africans, we must recognize the potential and opportunities in African unity and work together.

We are all part of humankind. We cannot ignore the fact that the world is hurting. Collective action, mutual respect, and regard for international rules and norms are crucial if we must achieve our common objectives.  In short, multilateralism matters.

Article first appeared in Africa Renewal on 29 September 2020.

UN Secretary Generals Message on International Day of Women and Girls in Science

11 February 2019

Skills in science, technology, engineering and math drive innovation and are critical to achieving

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

the Sustainable Development Goals. Women and girls are vital in all these areas. Yet they remain woefully under-represented. Gender stereotypes, a lack of visible role models and unsupportive or even hostile policies and environments can keep them from pursuing these careers.

The world cannot afford to miss out on the contributions of half our population. We need concerted efforts to overcome these obstacles.

We must tackle misconceptions about girls’ abilities.

We must promote access to learning opportunities for women and girls, particularly in rural areas.

And we must do more to change workplace culture so that girls who dream of being scientists, engineers and mathematicians can enjoy fulfilling careers in these fields.

Let us ensure that every girl, everywhere, has the opportunity to realize her dreams, grow into her power and contribute to a sustainable future for all.

Message in other UN official languages: ArabicChineseFrenchRussian,Spanish.

The UN Secretary General- Message on The International Day of Zero Tolerance For Female Genital Mutilation

6 February 2019

Female genital mutilation is an abhorrent human rights violation affecting women and girls

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

around the world. It denies them their dignity, endangers their health and causes needless pain and suffering, even death.

Female genital mutilation is rooted in gender inequalities and power imbalances– and it sustains them by limiting opportunities for girls and women to realize their rights and full potential. An estimated 200 million women and girls alive today have been subject to this harmful practice. And every year, almost 4 million girls are at risk.

The Sustainable Development Goals call for the elimination of female genital mutilation by 2030. The United Nations joins hands with global, regional and national actors in supporting holistic and integrated initiatives to achieve this objective. Tackling FGM is also a central part of our efforts in the Spotlight Initiative, launched in partnership with the European Union to end all forms of violence against women and girls.

With strong political commitment, we are seeing positive change in several countries. However, if current trends persist, these advances will continue to be outpaced by rapid population growth where the practice is concentrated.

On this Day of Zero Tolerance, I call for increased, concerted and global action to end female genital mutilation and fully uphold the human rights of all women and girls.

Message in other UN official languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian,Spanish.

More information

Taking action where we can to stop Cybercrime

By Yury Fedotov

The author is the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The op-ed is on the need for cooperation to tackle cybercrime.

Cyber. It is the inescapable prefix defining our world today. From the privacy of individuals to relations between states, cyber dominates discussions and headlines – so much so that we risk being paralyzed by the magnitude of the problems we face.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

But we would do well to keep in mind that despite the many outstanding questions on the future of cybersecurity and governance, international cooperation is essential to tackle the ever-growing threats of cybercrime.

Online exploitation and abuse of children. Darknet markets for illicit drugs and firearms. Ransomware attacks. Human traffickers using social media to lure victims. Cybercrime’s unprecedented reach – across all borders, into our homes and schools, businesses, hospitals and other vital service providers – only amplifies the threats.

A recent estimate put the global cost of cybercrime at 600 billion US dollars. The damage done to sustainable development and safety, to gender equality and protection –women and girls are disproportionately harmed by online sexual abuse – is immense.

Keeping people safer online is an enormous task and no one entity or government has the perfect solution. But there is much we can do, and need to do more of, to strengthen prevention and improve responses to cybercrime, namely:

  • Build up capabilities, most of all law enforcement, to shore up gaps, particularly in developing countries; and
  • Strengthen international cooperation and dialogue – between governments, the United Nations, other international as well as regional organizations, INTERPOL and the many other partners, including business and civil society, with a stake in stopping cybercrime.

Cyber-dependent crime, including malware proliferation, ransomware and hacking; cyber-enabled crime, for example email phishing to steal financial data; and online child sexual exploitation and abuse all have something in common besides the “cyber” aspect: they are crimes.

Police, prosecutors and judges need to understand these crimes, they need the tools to investigate and go after the criminals and protect the victims, and they need to be able to prosecute and adjudicate cases.

At the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), we are working in more than 50 countries to provide the necessary training, to sharpen investigative skills, trace cryptocurrencies as part of financial investigations, and use software to detect online abuse materials and go after predators.

As a direct result of our capacity-building efforts in one country, a high-risk paedophile with over 80 victims –– was arrested, tried and convicted. We delivered the training in partnership with the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and Facebook. This is just one example of how capacity building and partnerships with NGOs and the private sector can ensure that criminals are behind bars and vulnerable children protected.

Working with the Internet Watch Foundation, we have launched child sexual abuse reporting portals – most recently in Belize – so that citizens can take the initiative to report abuse images and protect girls and boys from online exploitation.

With partners including Thorn and Pantallas Amigas we are strengthening online protection and educating parents, caregivers and children about cyber risks through outreach in schools and local communities. Prevention is the key.

UNODC training – focused primarily on Central America, the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Africa and South East Asia – is also helping to identify digital evidence in online drug trafficking, confront the use of the darknet for criminal and terrorist purposes, and improve data collection to better address threats.

A critical foundation for all our efforts is international cooperation. Our work – which is entirely funded by donor governments – has shown that despite political differences, countries can and do come together to counter the threats of cybercrime.

We are also strengthening international cooperation through the Intergovernmental Expert Group, which meets at UNODC headquarters in Vienna.

Established by General Assembly resolution, the Expert Group brings together diplomats, policy makers and experts from around the globe to discuss the most pressing challenges in cybercrime today. These meetings demonstrate the desire and willingness of governments to pursue pragmatic cooperation, which can only help to improve prevention and foster trust.

As a next step, we need to reinforce these efforts, including by providing more resources to support developing countries, which often have the most new Internet users and the weakest defences against cybercrime.

Tech companies are an indispensable ally in the fight against cybercrime. We need to increase public-private sector engagement to address common concerns like improving education and clamping down on online abuse material.

Countering cybercrime can save lives, grow prosperity and build peace. By strengthening law enforcement capacities and partnering with businesses so they can be part of the solution, we can go a long way in ensuring that the Internet can be a force for good.

International Women’s Day Commemoration Lusaka Showgrounds, 8 March 2017 Remarks by the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Janet Rogan “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50/50 by 2030”

Your Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu

Your Honour the Vice President, Mrs Inonge Wina, MP

The Hon Chief Justice, Mrs Irene Mambilima

UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Ms. Janet Rogan

Hon Victoria Kalima, MP, Minister of Gender

Cabinet Ministers

Senior Government Officials

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Representatives of Civil Society Organisations

Media colleagues

Ladies and gentlemen

I am honoured once again to be representing the UN in Zambia on International Womens Day. Today’s national theme is “Promoting inclusiveness in economic participation as a means of attaining sustainable development”.

There are two underlying messages in this theme: first, “promoting inclusiveness” which is about empowering, or giving power to, those who are not currently included. It is about making space for others. Particularly, this message is to men, who possess the power and who occupy the space, that they need to share power, share space with women. The second message, which is “participation” is about taking power and stepping into that shared space in order to participate. Particularly, this second message is to women to take power, not only over their own lives and those of their families in the domestic space, but also in the public space – taking power and participating in community decision-making; climbing the ladder in the workplace; educating and training themselves; running their own business and employing others; taking responsibility for their own financial and legal affairs. It is about respect and opening up equal opportunity.

Some people will say that there’s no need for special attention to this. That discrimination on the basis of sex is natural and right. Indeed, it is alarming that despite the evidence that excluding and subjugating women damages economic growth, globally the situation is getting worse.  In his message today, the UN Secretary General, Mr Antonio Guterres, noted that:

” Historic imbalances in power relations between men and women, exacerbated by growing inequalities within and between societies and countries, are leading to greater discrimination against women and girls. Around the world, tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women’s rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices.”

Here in Zambia, gender-based violence, child marriages and early pregnancy, as well as defilement of the girl child are at crisis levels. This shows a fundamental imbalance in the power levels in our society between women and men.

Zambia Police statistics show that in 2002, 870 cases of girl child defilement were reported. Last year, that had risen to over 2000 cases. Between 2014 and 2016 a total of 7,518 girls were defiled. This word “defilement” disguises and neutralises the vile brutality of the crime.  The Penal Code of Zambia defines “defilement” as any carnal knowledge of – this means sexual intercourse with – any girl under the age of sixteen, whether the girl consents or not. Put simply, it is rape. The penalty is a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life. Let me restate the crimes: in 2002, 870 cases of rape of girls were reported; last year, over 2000 girls were reported to have been raped (more than 5 a day, every day); and between 2014 and 2016 a total of 7,518 girls were reported raped.

Records of the University Teaching Hospital show that among those huge numbers are babies as young as one month old, who have been sexually assaulted – raped – and brought for treatment there. I sincerely applaud the dedication, commitment, care and pure love for the victims, the survivors, their families and care-givers shown by the women and men who work at the Paediatric Centre of Excellence and One Stop Shop in UTH in Lusaka, and by their colleagues around the country. They are dealing with a tidal wave of female tragedy and misery.

I have put so much emphasis on these numbers not only because they are sickening, but because a society in which such things can be done with such brutality to our precious girl children; a society which tolerates and even covers up such devastating crimes; is a society that is going to have significant difficulty in enabling those brutalised, injured, traumatised girls to grow up into women who are powerful, strong, educated, economically significant citizens. A society that can allow such violent crimes to rise to such numbers is a society that seems content to exclude and leave behind the female half of the population in every area of life. To reach significant levels of economic inclusion for women in Zambia, our society needs to change its attitudes, its behaviours, its prejudices.

If we are to bring about this transformation, we need to face this crisis, and act, together. Government has already taken a very strong lead in this and I applaud the sustained personal commitment of the President, which has also been recognised by UN Women, when they appointed him a HeForShe champion and by the African Union. The new Constitution enshrines non-discrimination and recognises the equal worth of women and men. It is a shame that the referendum to amend the Bill of Rights did not pass. Without it, there is a deficit in rights protection in this country. The Anti-GBV Act and the fast track courts for GBV cases are showing people that there is a route to justice. At least four more fast track courts are planned for this year. The Marriage Bill needs to be finalised and brought to parliament. Government policy to allocate land plots 50-50 should be implemented properly. Measures to improve access to finance for SMEs need to ensure that the rules are women-friendly. It should be a priority that all children, girls and boys, complete high school, with a curriculum that focuses on developing the right skills for employability, whether academic or vocational.

All political parties should fully support their female elected representatives at all levels, especially at district level, which is after all where development happens. I look forward to the publication of the Seventh National Development Plan, with its focus on mainstreaming the SDGs and Leaving No-one Behind. All communities in all parts of the country – all women, all men – need to find themselves and their needs included in the Seventh National Development Plan.

Yet, the Seventh National Development Plan will work only if attitudes and behaviours relating to women and girls change significantly and fast. We need to break the silence on the issues that are damaging and holding back our girls and women and we all have a part in that. Mothers: how can you sweep these crimes under the carpet and protect family members who violate your daughters? Faith-based organisations: why are issues of moral decay like girl rape not challenged from the pulpit week in and week out until significant change is seen? Traditional leaders – we applaud the great efforts you have made to address the harmful cultural practices in your chiefdoms; and we need yet more leadership from you to drive out once and for all girl rape, early marriage and GBV; to promote school attendance for girls and boys; and to demand gender balance in dealing with community-level issues.

Or do we not break silence? Are we more comfortable, as adult men and women, to continue to tolerate in our villages and towns the systematic subjugation of our female citizens from the moment they are born, through discrimination in their upbringing, sexual slavery and rape, physical and psychological brutality, entrenching dependence in miserable marriages through lack of education and enforced ignorance?

What is the value of a girl? The value of a girl is not a cost – it can not be added up – how much was her schooling, her daily meals, her clothes. The value of a girl is not a price – whether lobola or some equivalent. A girl is not a commodity. A girl is not a sex worker. A girl is not a cure for HIV/AIDS – there is no cure for HIV/AIDS.

A girl is a future President, a future professor, a future musician, a future business tycoon, a future astronaut, a nuclear scientist, a mining engineer, an ambassador for her country, an IT whizzkid, a film star. All these contribute to the GDP and the development of a country. An extra year in school can add up to 25% to a girl’s future income. When women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Globally, closing the gender gap in employment could add USD 12 trillion to global GDP by 2025.

If the menfolk in Zambia are to ‘give power’ to womenfolk who are able to step in and take it; if we are to promote that economic inclusiveness to stimulate the growth that this country needs, then we must ensure that the raw material is the strongest it can be and we must protect it from any damage along the way. The value of a girl is the measure of the strength and maturity of a society. On International Womens Day, as on Human Rights Day only a few months ago, we must speak out for rights and I choose to speak out for the girlchild, the future of this and every country and the foundation of future economic growth. Please, no more shipikisha, break the silence, speak out, act to clean up the moral decay, prejudice and discrimination that holds back development in this beautiful country.

Thank you.

Sustainable Development Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere

5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation

5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation

5.4 Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate

5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life

5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences

5.a Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws

5.b Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women

5.c Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

 

The Secretary General’s Written Message on International Womens Day- March 8 2017

Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed.

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

Empowering women and girls is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realize their full potential.

Historic imbalances in power relations between men and women, exacerbated by growing inequalities within and between societies and countries, are leading to greater discrimination against women and girls. Around the world, tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women’s rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices.

Women’s legal rights, which have never been equal to men’s on any continent, are being eroded further. Women’s rights over their own bodies are questioned and undermined.  Women are routinely targeted for intimidation and harassment in cyberspace and in real life. In the worst cases, extremists and terrorists build their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and single them out for sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage and virtual enslavement.

Despite some improvements, leadership positions across the board are still held by men, and the economic gender gap is widening, thanks to outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism. We must change this, by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world.

Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies.

Women’s access to education and health services has benefits for their families and communities that extend to future generations. An extra year in school can add up to 25 per cent to a girl’s future income.

When women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Closing the gender gap in employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits whole societies.

Gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed by leaders of all countries to meet the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls specifically for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and this is central to the achievement of all the 17 SDGs.

I am committed to increasing women’s participation in our peace and security work. Women negotiators increase the chances of sustainable peace, and women peacekeepers decrease the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Within the UN, I am establishing a clear road map with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system, so that our Organization truly represents the people we serve.  Previous targets have not been met. Now we must move from ambition to action.

On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

UN ZAMBIA Joint Statement on World Population Day

World Population Day, commemorated each year on July 11 July, brings to the fore the demographic trends, dividends and challWorld Population Day 2013enges that impact societies the world over. The theme for this year is ‘adolescent pregnancy’. This is a topic that affects us all as policy makers, parents, teachers, students and friends.

Globally, too many of the estimated 16 million teenage girls who give birth each year never had the opportunity to plan their pregnancy.

In Zambia, over 30% of 15-19 year old girls have already been pregnant or have had a child. This is an alarming rate of pregnancy among adolescents. Zambia’s 2013 MDG Report indicates early marriage and adolescent pregnancy as two main triggers for the high maternal mortality rate in the country. 42% of Zambian women are married before the age of 18. Thirty eight mothers die each month due to complications relating to pregnancy and child birth. And many of these mothers are teenagers. Unsafe abortions, obstetric fistula, hemorrhage and malnutrition often result in young mothers facing a heightened risk of maternal complications, death and disability. Their children, even when surviving birth, face higher risks as well.

“Adolescent pregnancy is an abrupt disruption to education, and an end to childhood.

Keeping girls safe and in secondary school, enforcing laws that deter early marriage and harshly punish rape, and the active promotion and access to birth control and reproductive health education – this is what will break this cycle” said Kanni Wignaraja, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative.

Education and staying in school plays a major role in changing this situation. It creates awareness, it delays marriage and childbearing, and it reduces the otherwise high fertility rate. A Zambian woman with no formal education has a fertility rate of 8; with one year of secondary this halves to 4; and then it halves again to 2.4 with one year of tertiary education. This pattern also correlates with infant and child health. The better the education of the mother, the healthier the child. Good quality reproductive health services that cover family planning and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, must be readily available in order for adolescent boys and girls to make informed and healthy choices about the onset of sexual relations, pregnancy and child spacing.

On this World Population Day, the UN in Zambia calls on the government and all stakeholders to help make the right public policy choices and to invest resources in the education, health and wellbeing of adolescent girls. Every young girl, regardless of where she lives, her economic or social circumstances, has the right to enjoy and fulfill her potential. Today, too many girls in Zambia and across the world are denied that right. We can change that.