Tag Archives: Women

Secretary-General António Guterres video message on International day of UN Peacekeepers, 29 May

29 May 2020

Today we honor more than one million men and women who have served as United Nations peacekeepers and the more than 3,900 who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

We also express our gratitude to the 95,000 civilian, police and military personnel currently deployed around the world.

They are facing one of the greatest challenges ever: delivering on their peace and security mandates while helping countries to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theme of this year’s observance – Women in Peacekeeping – highlights their central role in our operations.

Women often have greater access in the communities we serve, enabling us to improve the protection of civilians, promote human rights and enhance overall performance.

This is especially important today, as female peacekeepers are on the frontlines in supporting the response to COVID-19 in already fragile contexts – using local radio to spread public health messaging, delivering necessary supplies to communities for prevention, and supporting efforts of local peacebuilders. Yet, women continue to represent only 6 per cent of uniformed military, police, justice and corrections personnel in field missions.

As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, we must do more to achieve women’s equal representation in all areas of peace and security.

Together, let us continue to wage peace, defeat the pandemic and build a better future.

 

UN Observes International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on 29 May 2020

PRESS RELEASE

27 MAY 2020

UN Secretary-General to commemorate fallen peacekeepers,  and honour Military Gender Advocates of the Year

Two fallen peacekeepers from Zambia to be honoured at United Nations ceremony

UN Headquarters will observe the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on Friday, 29 May 2020. Secretary-General António Guterres will lay a wreath to honour all UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives since 1948 and will preside over a ceremony at which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal will be awarded posthumously to the 83 military, police and civilian peacekeepers who lost their lives in 2019.

Among the fallen peacekeepers to be honoured are two from Zambia: SSGT Patrick Simasiku WAMUNYIMA and SSGT Alex Mudenda MUSANDA who both served with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

The Secretary-General will also award the ‘2019 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award’ to Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, a Brazilian naval officer serving with the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and Major Suman Gawani from India who served in UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Created in 2016, the Award “recognises the dedication and effort of an individual peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security”. This is the first year the award has gone to more than one peacekeeper.

In a video message to mark Peacekeepers Day, the Secretary-General said: “Today we honor more than one million men and women who have served as United Nations peacekeepers and the more than 3,900 who have lost their lives in the line of duty.  We also express our gratitude to the 95,000 civilian, police and military personnel currently deployed around the world.  They are facing one of the greatest challenges ever: delivering on their peace and security mandates while helping countries to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Zambia is the 20tht largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping.  It currently contributes more than 1,000 military and police personnel – including 154 women —  to the UN peacekeeping operations in Abyei, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and one expert deployed with the UN Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement in Yemen.

“The theme of this year’s observance – Women in Peacekeeping – highlights their central role in our operations.  Women often have greater access in the communities we serve, enabling us to improve the protection of civilians, promote human rights and enhance overall performance yet, women continue to represent only 6 per cent of uniformed military, police, justice and corrections personnel in field missions.  As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, we must do more to achieve women’s equal representation in all areas of peace and security,” the Secretary-General added.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, said: “As our peacekeepers continue to carry out their essential work amidst the constraints presented by COVID-19, ensuring women’s meaningful, equal and full participation in peace operations, as well as in peace and political processes, is key to protecting civilians and building durable peace.  Women who serve in peace operations play an essential role in helping communities in the fight against COVID-19. They must be a central part of all international, national and local responses.”

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002, to pay tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. The General Assembly designated 29 May as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers in commemoration of the day in 1948 when the UN’s first peacekeeping mission, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began its operations.

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For further information, please contact Douglas Coffman, Department of Global Communications, at tel./WhatsApp:  +1 (917) 361-9923, or e-mail:  coffmand@un.org; or Aditya Mehta  of Peacekeeping Operations, at tel./ WhatsApp:  +1 (917) 775-4249 or e-mail: mehta2@un.org; or visit the Peacekeepers Day website at www.un.org/en/events/peacekeepersday, or the United Nations Peacekeeping website at www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/pkday.shtml.

Follow the #PKDay #womeninpeacekeeping campaign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

COVID-19: A double burden for women in conflict areas, on the frontline

By: 

NJOKI KINYANJUI

Since COVID-19 broke out in December 2019, it has continued to spread across the globe unabated, with countries at different phases along the curve

Public health emergencies worldwide, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impacts, affect women and men differently, but take a disproportionate toll on women.

Even more so in conflict-affected countries and post-conflict contexts, where the existing gender inequalities and exclusion of women from all decision-making, including on peace and security issues, are severely deepened.

In these contexts, women are often on the periphery of the community’s solutions, especially peace and political solutions; and have limited access to critical information and decision-making power on social, economic, health, protection and justice outcomes.

Yet, with all these challenges, women remain on the frontline agitating for meaningful and full political participation and in other socio-economic arenas, including in health.

It is therefore very positive that the Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire to enable COVID-19 responses in fragile and crisis settings has been endorsed by many Member States, regional organizations and civil society groups including women’s organizations.

There is already documented evidence on the rise of violence against women, particularly domestic violence. In his recent message on Gender Based Violence and COVID-19, Mr. Guterres notes that “over the past weeks as economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying global surge in domestic violence” and issued a rallying call to end violence against women in their homes.

Women on the frontline

It is well recognized that globally, women predominantly carry the burden of providing primary healthcare,. About 70 per cent of global health workers are women and emerging statistics show that health workers are increasingly getting infected by COVID-19.

Women are also employed in the service industries and the informal sector, which are amongst those hardest-hit by the measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission. They are also paid less and are most often the ones doing unpaid care work.

Women’s networks and organizations are key partners in UN peacekeeping. They provide innovative community approaches to resolve conflicts, and wage peace and reconciliation. It is these same networks that are critical vehicles for women’s participation in COVID-19 decision-making, prevention and responses and elevated advocacy for the global ceasefire call. This is particularly critical at the local level, where COVID-19 prevention and response measures are anchored in community engagement, participation and sharing the right information.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix recently emphasized that peacekeepers, both women and men, are playing a key role in providing credible information along with their protection and conflict resolution work, in partnership with national authorities in fragile environments further strained by the pandemic.

As 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the multiple impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inequalities it lays bare are a stark reminder of how women can lead to turn the tide, as actors and decision-makers at all levels, in the health sector, but also more broadly on peace and political processes in their respective countries.

It is a time to come together and use the momentum created by the endorsement of the global ceasefire call, to protect women, safeguard the gains towards the fulfillment of their rights and lead as protectors of peace.

 

Ms. Kinyanjui is the Chief of Gender Unit and Senior Gender Adviser, UN Department of Peace Operations

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal

 

The Secretary General- Video Message to Launch Policy Brief on Older Persons

New York, 1 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world.

The fatality rate for older people is higher overall, and for those over 80, it is five times the global average.

Beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation. It is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries.

As an older person myself, with responsibility for an even older mother, I am deeply concerned about the pandemic on a personal level, and about its effects on our communities and societies.

Today we are launching a policy brief that provides analysis and recommendations to address these challenges. Our response to COVID-19 must respect the rights and dignity of older people.

There are four main messages.

First, no person, young or old, is expendable. Older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else.

Difficult decisions around life-saving medical care must respect the human rights and dignity of all.

Second, while physical distancing is crucial, let’s not forget we are one community and we all belong to each other. We need improved social support and smarter efforts to reach older people through digital technology.

That is vital to older people who may face great suffering and isolation under lockdowns and other restrictions.

Third, all social, economic and humanitarian responses must take the needs of older people fully into account, from universal health coverage to social protection, decent work and pensions.

The majority of older people are women, who are more likely to enter this period of their lives in poverty and without access to healthcare. Policies must be targeted at meeting their needs.

And fourth, let’s not treat older people as invisible or powerless.

Many older people depend on an income and are fully engaged in work, in family life, in teaching and learning, and in looking after others. Their voices and leadership count.

To get through this pandemic together, we need a surge in global and national solidarity and the contributions of all members of society, including older people.

As we look to recover better, we will need ambition and vision to build more inclusive, sustainable and age-friendly societies that are fit for the future.

The UN Secretary-General’s message on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2019

A free press is essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights.

No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information. It is the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

speaking truth to power.

This is especially true during election seasons — the focus of this year’s World Press Freedom Day.

Facts, not falsehoods, should guide people as they choose their representatives.

Yet while technology has transformed the ways in which we receive and share information, sometimes it is used to mislead public opinion or to fuel violence and hatred.

Civic space has been shrinking worldwide at an alarming rate.

And with anti-media rhetoric on the rise, so too are violence and harssasment against journalists, including women.

I am deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity.

According to UNESCO, almost 100 journalists were killed in 2018.

Hundreds are imprisoned.

When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.
On World Press Freedom Day, I call on all to defend the rights of journalists, whose efforts help us to build a better world for all.

Thank you.

The UN Secretary Generals Message on International Womens Day

New York, 8 March 2019

Gender equality and women’s rights are fundamental to global progress on peace and security,

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

human rights and sustainable development. We can only re-establish trust in institutions, rebuild global solidarity and reap the benefits of diverse perspectives by challenging historic injustices and promoting the rights and dignity of all.

In recent decades, we have seen remarkable progress on women’s rights and leadership in some areas. But these gains are far from complete or consistent – and they have already sparked a troubling backlash from an entrenched patriarchy.

Gender equality is fundamentally a question of power. We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture. Only when we see women’s rights as our common objective, a route to change that benefits everyone, will we begin to shift the balance.

Increasing the number of women decision-makers is fundamental. At the United Nations, I have made this a personal and urgent priority. We now have gender parity among those who lead our teams around the world, and the highest-ever numbers of women in senior management. We will continue to build on this progress.

But women still face major obstacles in accessing and exercising power. As the World Bank found, just six economies give women and men equal legal rights in areas that affect their work. And if current trends continue, it will take 170 years to close the economic gender gap.

Nationalist, populist and austerity agendas add to gender inequality with policies that curtail women’s rights and cut social services. In some countries, while homicide rates overall are decreasing, femicide rates are rising. In others we see a rollback of legal protection against domestic violence or female genital mutilation. We know women’s participation makes peace agreements more durable, but even governments that are vocal advocates fail to back their words with action. The use of sexual violence as a tactic in conflict continues to traumatize individuals and entire societies.

Against this backdrop, we need to redouble our efforts to protect and promote women’s rights, dignity and leadership. We must not give ground that has been won over decades and we must push for wholesale, rapid and radical change.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, addresses infrastructure, systems and frameworks that have been constructed largely in line with a male-defined culture. We need to find innovative ways of reimagining and rebuilding our world so that it works for everyone. Women decision-makers in areas like urban design, transport and public services can increase women’s access, prevent harassment and violence, and improve everyone’s quality of life.

This applies equally to the digital future that is already upon us. Innovation and technology reflect the people who make them. The underrepresentation and lack of retention of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and design should be a cause of concern to all.

Last month, in Ethiopia, I spent time with African Girls Can Code, an initiative that is helping to bridge the digital gender divide and train the tech leaders of tomorrow. I was delighted to see the energy and enthusiasm these girls brought to their projects. Programmes like this not only develop skills; they challenge stereotypes that limit girls’ ambitions and dreams.

On this International Women’s Day, let’s make sure women and girls can shape the policies, services and infrastructure that impact all our lives. And let’s support women and girls who are breaking down barriers to create a better world for everyone.

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French Translation

L’égalité des genres et les droits des femmes sont fondamentaux pour progresser à l’échelle planétaire sur la voie de la paix, de la sécurité, des droits de l’homme et du développement durable. Nous ne pouvons rétablir la confiance dans les institutions, reconstruire la solidarité au niveau mondial et tirer parti des diverses perspectives qu’en luttant contre les injustices historiques et en promouvant les droits et la dignité de toutes et de tous.

 

Ces dernières décennies, nous avons vu les femmes réaliser de remarquables avancées dans certains domaines, en matière de droits et de leadership. Mais ces progrès sont loin d’être complets ou systématiques – et ils ont suscité une réaction hostile et inquiétante de la part d’un patriarcat solidement enraciné.

 

L’égalité des genres est essentiellement une question de pouvoir. Nous vivons dans un monde dominé par les hommes où la culture l’est également. Ce n’est que lorsque nous nous fixons comme objectif commun les droits des femmes, un nouveau cap à prendre au profit de toutes et de tous, que nous commencerons à faire évoluer la situation.

 

L’augmentation du nombre des femmes à des postes de décision est fondamental. À l’ONU, j’en ai fait une priorité personnelle et urgente. Nous avons assuré la parité entre les sexes parmi celles et ceux qui dirigent nos équipes dans le monde, et le nombre de femmes occupant des postes de responsabilité est le plus élevé jamais atteint dans l’Organisation. Nous continuerons à faire fond sur cette avancée.

 

Toutefois, les femmes se heurtent encore à des obstacles importants pour accéder au pouvoir et pour l’exercer. Comme la Banque mondiale l’a constaté, seuls six pays accordent aux femmes et aux hommes la même égalité de droits dans des domaines touchant à leur vie professionnelle. Et si les tendances actuelles se maintiennent, il faudra 170 ans pour combler l’écart économique entre les sexes.

 

Les programmes nationalistes, populistes et d’austérité ajoutent à l’inégalité de genre par des politiques qui restreignent les droits des femmes et suppriment l’accès aux services sociaux. Dans certains pays, alors que le taux d’homicide est d’une manière générale en baisse, celui de féminicide est en hausse. Dans d’autres, nous constatons un recul de la protection juridique contre la violence domestique et la mutilation génitale féminine. Nous savons que la participation des femmes aux accords de paix rend ces derniers plus durables, ce qui n’empêche pourtant pas les gouvernements qui plaident en leur faveur de ne pas réussir à traduire leurs paroles en actes. Le recours à la violence sexuelle en tant que tactique dans les conflits continue d’être à la source de traumatismes à l’échelle des individus et de sociétés entières.

 

Dans ce contexte, il nous faut redoubler d’efforts pour protéger et promouvoir les droits, la dignité et le leadership des femmes. Nous ne devons pas céder un pouce du terrain conquis depuis des décennies et nous devons appeler à un changement rapide, radical et en profondeur.

 

Cette année, le thème de la Journée internationale des femmes : « Penser équitablement, bâtir intelligemment, innover pour le changement », aborde la question des infrastructures, des systèmes et des cadres qui ont été en grande partie établis dans l’esprit d’une culture définie par les hommes. Nous devons trouver des manières innovantes de réinventer et de reconstruire notre monde pour qu’il profite à toutes et à tous. Les femmes occupant des postes de décision dans des secteurs comme l’urbanisme, les transports et les services publics peuvent accroître l’accès d’autres femmes, prévenir le harcèlement à leur égard et les violences dont elles font l’objet, et améliorer la qualité de vie de chacune et de chacun.

 

Cela vaut également pour l’avenir numérique qui nous entoure déjà. L’innovation et la technologie sont le reflet de celles et ceux qui sont à leur origine. La sous‑représentation des femmes et le fait qu’elles ne demeurent pas en poste dans les secteurs de la science, de la technologie, de l’ingénierie, des mathématiques et de la conception devraient être une source de préoccupation pour nous toutes et tous.

 

Le mois dernier, en Éthiopie, j’ai passé du temps avec l’équipe d’African Girls Can Code, une initiative qui contribue à combler le fossé numérique entre les femmes et les hommes et à former les responsables des entreprises de haute technologie de demain. J’ai eu le plaisir de voir l’énergie et l’enthousiasme avec lesquels ces filles menaient leurs projets. Les programmes de cette nature ne développent pas seulement les compétences : ils combattent les stéréotypes qui limitent les ambitions et les rêves des filles.

 

En cette Journée internationale des femmes, veillons à ce que les femmes et les filles puissent concevoir des politiques, des services et des infrastructures ayant un effet sur notre vie. Et apportons notre soutien aux femmes et aux filles qui suppriment les obstacles à la création d’un monde meilleur pour toutes et pour tous.

 

 

Bookmark the Spokesperson’s website:http://www.un.org/sg/en/spokesperson

 

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