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(20 March 2017)-  Gender parity at all levels—political, cultural, economic and social—is a “central objective” and must be based on women's empowerment, Secretary-General António Guterres told women's rights activists and civil society representatives today during a town hall-style discussion at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Parity is important in all areas of political and social life, said Mr. Guterres adding: “This is a battle […] a struggle.” Generally no one likes to lose positions they have long held, but the reality of gender parity is that many more women will be in positions that today are occupied by men. “But that's a good thing,” he said, noting that in his experience, gender parity means better decision-making and better management.

Alongside UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, as well as Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and his senior staff, Mr. Guterres set the stage for the end of the first week of the 61st Commission on the Status of Women, known as the largest inter-governmental forum on women's rights and gender equality. The theme this year is women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

The Secretary-General sought suggestions and opinions of the civil society representatives on how the UN can move forward on its commitments on gender equality. He opened the discussion by sharing life lessons on the issue, telling the gathering that during his time as Prime Minster of Portugal, one of his most difficult battles had been putting family violence on the national agenda.


Indigenous women from the Americas, Asia, Africa, the Arctic and the Pacific articulated through the International Indigenous Women’s Forum reaffirmed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted during the Fourth World Conference on Women;

We highlight two resolutions concerning on indigenous women adopted by the Commission on the Status of Women, “Indigenous women: beyond the ten-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action” (Resolution 49/7); and “Indigenous women: key actors in poverty and hunger eradication” (Resolution 56/4);

We particularly value the six direct indicators that make reference to indigenous peoples in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and we advocate for its implementation in coherence with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the General Assembly in 20017, where the article 22 is related to indigenous women;

Recognizing the assumed commitments, adopted measures and the efforts made by the States, United Nations system, indigenous peoples and other agents related to the application of the Outcome document of the high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, particularly related to the rights of indigenous persons with disabilities and indigenous women;

We congratulate the Commission on the Status of Women for addressing the empowerment of indigenous women as a focus area during its sixty-first session;

We emphasize the importance to recognizing the contributions of indigenous women based on ancestral knowledge, which are key to energizing various local economies in order to eradicate poverty and ensure food sovereignty and sustainable development in our territories;

Concerned by the marked violence that we face indigenous women, human rights and mother earth defenders, we make an urgent call to accomplish the commitments and measures focused to promote opportunities of economic autonomy, access to economic resources as well as culturally relevant education and social services;

We believe that each culture has its own concept of empowerment and that must be taken into account. For us, indigenous women, empowerment is linked to the full exercise of our individual and collective rights in accordance with our worldview, it is part of our collective responsibilities to protect and live in peace with the Mother Earth;

Empowerment includes the right to freely exercise the economic, social and cultural development of each of our indigenous peoples as well to have control over our territories and their resources, which are often undermined by large corporations with the support of the States;

We highlight that Indigenous entrepreneurship guided by the logic of complementarity and reciprocity within the communities implies collective and holistic wellbeing;

We recognize the multiple expressions of economic empowerment through innovative experiences in economic endeavors such as artists, traditional foods, community tourism, designers and weavers, activists combining political empowerment with food security, the Indigenous Women’s Fund AYNI;

We have found that the lack of resources for food and production has forced the migration of indigenous women into labor markets, including domestic work in inhumane conditions. Migration pressures indigenous peoples to engage the formal economic system usually under conditions of inequality especially for indigenous women;

In view of this situation, we urge Members States to include the following priorities:

1. That States incorporate indicators disaggregated by ethnicity and gender for the appropriate formulation of public policies that guarantee well-being and services in rural contexts and indigenous communities, recognizing the contributions of indigenous women in the paid and unpaid labour market;

2. Recognize the contribution of indigenous women and their communities to sustainable and equitable development based on respect for ancestral knowledge, cultures, traditional values and practices and management systems that ensures environmental goods and services not only for indigenous communities but also for the general public;

3. Recognize the right of indigenous women to access and manage land, territory and its resources, including collective rights and usufruct use of land and common property, and implement actions based on free prior and informed consent;

4. To allocate financial resources to the implementation of economic activities of indigenous women taking into account their traditional knowledge in order to strengthen their leadership and improve their development, in particular through improved equitable access to productive resources and agricultural inputs, such as land, seeds, financial services, technology, transportation and information;

5. To encourage the Commission on the Status of Women to review the progress made and the challenges encountered in the implementation of the two adopted resolutions that refer to indigenous women; with a view to developing measures to eliminate obstacles to access to justice, especially for indigenous women, girls, youth and indigenous women with disabilities;

6. Ensure the full and effective participation of indigenous women, specially of the youth and indigenous women with disabilities in the preparatory processes for the sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women, including the Expert Group Meeting, Multi-Stakeholder Forum and the regional consultations prior to the session.


For further information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. /

We, Indigenous women organizations endorse this Political Statement:

Las Hormigas



Cameroon Indigenous Women Forum (FFAC)

Foundation for Integrated Rural Development (FIRD) Uganda

Centro de Culturas Indígenas de Perú (Chirapaq)

Tebtebba Foundation


Mountain Spirit

Perempuan Aman – Maluku

SNF-Sámi Nisson Forum

Asociación Comunal Inkawasi Awana

Asian Indigenous Women's Network (AIWN)

(06 March 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.

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.


To prepare for CSW61 please read the attached document, "Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work Draft agreed conclusions."

It would be useful to note what you think is particularly strong in the report and what needs to be added. Some member states have been asking NGOs to contribute in this way to the priority theme. This is the first step in the process leading up to agreed upon conclusions.

If you want to influence the process, get this information to your missions before 20 February. The sooner you submit your feedback the better.

For additional information, please go to or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

(12 February 2017) “It makes us happy that we hear the men from our communities are listening to the radio and saying ‘no more violence’ and acknowledging that women have rights.”

This is how Luisa Ruiz* described the change brought to her community by the “Voices of the Women of Wangki Tangni” project, which established the first radio station to focus on women’s rights in the North Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua.

Valerie Carero*, another avid listener, said: “We have lived here with a high level of sexual violence against young girls. But now with this project, we are talking daily about this issue in the schools, churches, in the home, when we are doing chores and in meetings, so that we can overcome this violence. We believe that we are already seeing less violence in the home and within families.”

The national epidemic of violence against women and girls is acute in this region, particularly for indigenous women whose needs are often neglected and marginalized in remote areas. In order to reach out to them, in June 2016, the international women’s rights organization MADRE and its local Nicaraguan partner Wangki Tangni launched an innovative radio project, supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), which is managed by UN Women on behalf of the UN System. The project targets more than 63 communities in the region.

Through this radio station and “community listener groups” organized by comunicadoras—women’s rights defenders—from Wangki Tangni are providing consistent information and a safe space for learning to women and girls, as well as men and boys, on women’s rights, human rights and indigenous concepts of peaceful living. It is the region’s only radio station that airs programmes in the local Miskito language.  

"We've worked hand-in-hand with women from these communities for decades," said Natalia Caruso, Director of Partnerships for MADRE. "As they've faced war and disaster, poverty and violence over the years, there has always been one factor in common: women always speak out. This radio station amplifies their voices, spreading their message of non-violence and human rights even farther and to communities that have been otherwise isolated from information."

Mildred Garcia, UN Trust Fund Portfolio Manager for the project, who recently visited the communities feels that the initiative has given voice to those who were voiceless: "Women affected by war, with difficult living conditions and in hard to reach areas, can now tell their own stories, through radio. Through the radio programmes, women are now informed about their rights and how to access justice. One older woman said to me, 'when we gather to listen to the programme with my granddaughters and other members of the community in our own language [Miskito], we feel included; we feel that the radio is an instrument of our livelihood battle’.” 

Since the project began in 2016, MADRE has provided more than 350 solar radios to 115 communities to expand the reach of the programme, and more will be distributed in the coming months. Building local capacity, it has also trained 30 comunicadoras on effective interviewing and broadcasting techniques, and provided instruction to all that received a radio on how to use the equipment. 

*All names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.


Ahead of the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women on March 13 to 24, 20017 when one of the points of discussion is on the empowerment of indigenous women, UN Women has launched the Strategy for Inclusion and Visibility of Indigenous Women last December 2016. The strategy “crystalizes UN Women’s long-standing commitment to indigenous women. It serves as the organization’s first official frame of reference for bring­ing UN Women’s programming to scale in a coherent and consistent manner across the organization.”

You can download the strategy document here.

After two weeks of negotiations, last Friday, the 13th Conference of the Parties on the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD-COP13) held in Cancun, came to an end. Participants from all around the world and from different sectors met during these two weeks and discussed about several issues related to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity as well as the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Targets. The main theme under COP13 was ‘conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in plans, programs and sectoral and intersectoral policies, placing emphasis on sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism’.

During COP10, held in South Korea in 2012, the CBD adopted Decision XII/7 on mainstreaming gender considerations[1], including a Gender Plan of Action. This Decision called upon Parties (governments which have ratified the Convention) to report about the progress made on the Plan of Action. However, little has been reported by Parties in this regard. A recent study about the inclusion of gender considerations in the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) from 1993 until May 2016, found that 56% of the NBSAPs had at least one reference to ‘gender’ and/or ‘women’, while the remaining 44% did not have references at all. In addition, those references were always related to ‘vulnerability’ or ‘marginalization’[2].

Contrary to what is usually the case, this time the Ministerial Declaration took place ahead of the negotiations. Different groups, including women’s groups and others working on gender, raised concerns about the lack of inclusion of gender references in the Declaration[3], especially because the Convention on Biological Diversity has been one of the first international environmental political instrumentsrecognizing also the vital role that women play in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and affirming the need for the full participation of women at all levels of policy-making and implementation for biological diversity conservation”[4].

Fortunately, the outcome of the last round of negotiations at the COP is highly satisfactory and it shows the deep change undergoing at the global level (and in different areas) regarding gender issues. During this COP, almost 28 decisions in different areas took into account women & gender.

For instance, the decision about the engagement of different actors to mainstream biodiversity[5], recognizes the relevant role that women can play in this area taking into account their rights, needs and aspirations. Similarly, it establishes a link with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality, and the inclusion of indigenous women in the Gender Plan of Action as well as mainstreaming gender in the NBSAPs, policies and actions related to biodiversity.

In accordance to the Gender Plan of Action, the decision about progress in the implementation of the CBD Strategic Plan 2011-2020 and the Aichi Targets[6], makes a call to mainstream gender considerations into the NBSAPs and monitoring mechanisms. Another decision about cooperating with other international agreements and organizations[7], establishes that the resolutions related to biodiversity must take into account women’s participation at all levels when finalizing and implementing NBSAPs. Likewise, it establishes that there has to be an official coordination mechanism among the different national focal points and relevant authorities under the different agreements, facilitating women’s participation. The decision regarding CBD’s communications strategy[8], recognizes women as part of the audience and the need to include gender considerations in all resolutions taking into account the role of women in conservation and sustainable use.

A decision on biodiversity and human health[9]comes in as very relevant because it recognizes the different roles that women and men have managing natural resources and its relation to family’s health; this decision also has a specific reference about women’s reliance on ecosystems for food, water and health.

The decision related to biodiversity and climate change[10]recognizes gender approaches, while the decision on the Plan of Action for Ecosystem Restoration[11]highlights women’s participation throughout all phases of the restoration process and recognizes women as agents of change, on the top of their leadership to revitalize communities and the renewable management of resources[12]. It also makes a call for gender balance in stakeholder participation, and requestscapacity building on women’s rights in order to implement the restoration.

Decisions for CBD’s implementation[13], as well as marine and coastal biodiversity[14], also request gender balance within expert groups. The decisions on voluntary guidelines to repatriate traditional knowledge[15], and the Mo’otzkuxtal guidelines[16], where the GEF and other institutions are encouraged to provide economic and technical assistance, mentions that gender should be considered while recognizing this type of women’s knowledge and the need to repatriate it.

The decision on funding mechanisms[17]has a reference about traditional knowledge and the economic and technical assistance to include women, to raise awareness and build capacity related to, among others, the implementation guidelines. It also has a reference to the renewal of the program (2018-2022) and the need to include a gender dimension. Thus, it makes a call to the GEF to mainstream gender when funding biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The decision on capacity building, scientific cooperation, scientific transfer and the “clearing house” mechanism[18], calls for taking complementary measures to Article 12, having as goals workshops and trainings aimed for women, among others. Likewise, it encourages the CBD Secretariat to catalyse and facilitate the engagement of women in the short-term plan for action.

In regard to Target 14, it is expected that at the regional and sub-regional levels, indigenous women and their own traditional systems will be included in the workshops about health and biodiversity. Under this framework, it was also urged to collaborate with relevant organizations, including indigenous women organizations, to develop materials and tools in order to mainstream and raise awareness about the linkages between health and biodiversity.

Targets 18 and 16, include a reference to provide Indigenous Peoples and local community organizations with funds and technical support to organize sub-national workshops and to continue with this support; as indicator, it establishes the number of women that will benefit from the training. Other related specific activities include:  mainstreaming activities with gender considerations in all biodiversity targets; to collect and disseminate tools and information about gender and biodiversity; capacity building about the Gender Plan of Action, especially for indigenous women; to organize preparatory workshops for women before the COPs, especially for indigenous women; to provide tools and available guidelines to mainstream gender; to establish partnerships and networks to link up all national actors (women’s groups) in the promotion of gender mainstreaming; to carry out assessments of the needs with women and gender experts, including indigenous women; and to collaborate with the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership to develop indicators on gender and biodiversity at the national and sub-national levels.


These decisions can be found within different areas which are very important to make progress in gender equality and women’s rights; issues such as women’s participation at all levels have been ignored for too long and it was about time to recognize the need for such participation. It is clear that without the participation of all actors, it is not possible to meet the different targets as in the case of biodiversity conservation. Capacity building should reach the whole population: male, female and others, each of them able to access the same opportunities. Programs, policies and other actions at the sub-national, national, regional and international levels, should answer to women’s needs and aspirations. We hope the new – and first woman ever- CDB Executive Director, Cristiana PaşcaPalmer from Romania, will give more and better opportunities to mainstream gender in all discussions dealing biodiversity at the global level. It is very important that decisions regarding gender balance are finally being taken, and that in every sphere both men and women can access the same opportunities for participation, given that, as it has been acknowledged already, we have different roles and we all deserve to be heard.

[1]Meaning that such considerations should be taken into account throughout CBD’s plans, projects, documents, etc.















On its 15th Board Meeting on December 13-15, 2016 in Apia, Samoa, the Green Climate Fund adopted a decision to develop a fund-wide Indigenous Peoples' Policy in 2017. The decision says:

a)    Requests the Secretariat to prepare for consideration by the Board, at its seventeenth meeting, a fund-wide Indigenous Peoples Policy; and

b)    Invites submissions from the Board, and Alternate members and observer organizations in relation to the development of the GCF Indigenous Peoples Policy.

We welcome this decision as we have been calling for an IP policy in the Fund since we began engaging in the 9th board meeting. 

After the decision, Board Members Jorge Ferrer of Cuba and Kate Hughes of UK raised the need to include an agenda item on the IP policy in the draft Work Plan of the Board for 2017. However, due to items that some board members think should be deferred, the Board did not adopt the Work Plan. The Secretariat is set to come up with a draft work plan in the next board meeting (B.16) in early 2017, noting the issues that were raised by the Board, including the IP Policy agenda.

We also wish to share that the GCF Board welcomed the intervention delivered on report about the status and progress of developing proposals for REDD+ Results-Based Payments. The intervention delivered by Kimaren Ole Riamit, the alternate active observer for southern CSOS and executive director of Indigenous Livelihood Enhancement Partners (ILEPA) of Kenya and member of the Indigenous Peoples' Global Advocacy Team on the GCF and Climate Finance) reads:

"We welcome the provision for stakeholder inputs, including civil society organizations and indigenous peoples, into the REDD+ RBP operationalization. Input from stakeholders in the development of the request for proposals is essential and will ensure that the Fund can benefit from the wealth of experience gained from past and ongoing REDD+ activities to develop relevant technical considerations. The Secretariat should have a clear mandate to organize the stakeholder input process including a proposed structure and timelines to be completed before B.16. In view of the centrality of forests to indigenous peoples' livelihoods and the imminent operationalization of RBP for REDD+ under the GCF, it is important for the Fund to consider establishment of a focal point on indigenous peoples' issues within the secretariat to provide resident expertise on IP-related concerns."

The Board agreed with the importance of stakeholder consultations, especially among indigenous peoples, and some even suggested to hold virtual consultations among stakeholders. The Board Members from Democratic Republic of Congo (Tosi Mpanu Mpanu) and of Canada (Caroline Leclerc) were appointed as the Fund's "champions" to facilitate consultations on this matter. They are supposed to provide support and advice to the Secretariat and update the Board of the progress of the work in the next meetings.

We look forward to more information on the process of inputs on the development of an IP policy and we would be happy to share and receive inputs from everyone as well.


Helen Magata

On behalf of Tebtebba and the Indigenous Peoples' Global Advocacy Team on the GCF and Climate Finance


Speech by UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the Public Lecture hosted by the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Malaysia

(29 November 2016) Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on the significance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the fight to end gender inequality; a fight many of you have been involved in for many years.

As you know, in 2015, United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They agreed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets. This is the most complex agreement by Member States since the adoption of the Charter of the United Nations in 1945.

The SDGs are an outstanding accomplishment of governments worldwide; a process in which civil society and the private sector, academics and different concerned interest groups also contributed and participated. The goals reflect a true universality, and aspirations driven by a consultative process. The fact that so many Member States agreed to so many goals and so many targets as a mechanism to measure progress is in itself a big step, given their diversity of views. In that regard the SDGs must encourage all of us to do our best in our countries to make sure that the SDGs are owned and implemented.

All 17 of the goals have significance for women and girls. Goal 1 is about ending poverty in all its forms everywhere. Goal 3 is about ensuring that healthy lives are a reality for the people of the world as well as making sure we address and promote wellbeing for people of all ages. Goal 4 is dedicated to providing quality education for all and promoting life-long learning. Goal 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls. Goal 6 is to ensure access to water and sanitation for all, while Goal 7 is to ensure access to affordable and sustainable energy. Goal 8 is about promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and employment. Goal 10 is about reducing inequalities, within and among countries, and Goal 12 is about ensuring consumption and production patterns are sustainable. Goal 13 is to take urgent action to address climate change and its impact. Goal 17 is to revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. I hope this gives a sense of how rich and diverse the SDGs are.   

The goals deal with the successes and the limitations of the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), taking on board their unfinished business. They have a scheduled period for implementation, which is 2016-2030, and they are part of an even broader agenda. This includes the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development adopted in 2015 in Addis Ababa, and the Paris Agreement on climate also agreed to in the same year. These agreements, together with the SDGs, give us a comprehensive vision for 2030. They should, together, enable us to substantively change our lives and the way we deal with each other and among countries.

The 17 SDGs are comprehensive and ambitious. We have in them an accountability framework; they are universal, applying to all nations, rich and poor. These are not goals for poor countries, these are goals for the whole world and all countries. The goals also have gender equality front and centre. Gender is mainstreamed in every goal in addition to the one comprehensive goal, Goal 5, which is about gender equality. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are recognized as a critical contribution to progress across all the goals and all the targets.

The SDGS are designed to produce structural change that will last. They are also important because they adhere to human rights principles.  These 17 goals are about people and leaving no one behind, especially ensuring that women and girls are a priority, because many are in danger of being left behind. They are about shared prosperity, within and between countries, in order to close the gap that is opened up by inequality. The goals also are about our planet and its protection and help us to culture a low carbon economy. The changes that are envisaged as a result of the SDGs would mean that all of us take responsibility for protecting the planet. The goals are also about peace and its protection, as well as prevention of conflict. They are about a partnership that makes Agenda 2030 a possibility for everybody, in all parts of the world.

The SDGs were a hard-earned victory for the women’s movement. The inclusion of SDG 5, specifically dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, is a critical victory for women. 

So, with all this being said, can these SDGs deliver far-reaching changes for women and girls? 

Can they give us a society with substantive gender equality? 

This is in our hands. But let us look at what is included in the SDGs to see whether there is the content for us to track the dream to travel this road.

When we fought for Goal 5, we wanted a goal to tackle the structural barriers of inequality. We wanted to make sure that some of the most pernicious and universal cultural barriers that impact on all the women in all the countries were in the forefront of the agenda. We wanted to make sure that the barriers that are transmitted from generation to generation are also addressed substantively. It is these cultural areas that in many cases erode the gains we have made, even as we move forward.

The focus of Goal 5 and its related targets builds on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The goals are not isolated from these iconic agreements. They come out of the lessons learnt from their implementation.  But the broad support for the MDGs, the Beijing Platform for Action, for CEDAW, has not given us the kind of progress that we wanted. There has been progress, but it has been slow, uneven and fragmented. With the adoption of these goals, we are trying to address the challenge of fragmentation, of the pace of change and ensure that the change itself is far reaching.

Goal 5 focuses on removing institutionalized discrimination against women. Legislative discrimination in many countries is among the greatest impediments to women’s economic empowerment and to women’s development, as well as to women’s equality and progress for girls. Discriminatory laws can be found in more than 150 countries of the world. 

Discrimination can also come about through far-reaching legislation that is not fully implemented, which means that the intended benefit is not felt. With the implementation of the SDGs, it is our aim to ensure effective implementation of the laws that have been adopted, and the policies. This requires the participation of government, of women’s organizations and of the private sector. There are also laws that have been passed that need to be amended because they erode rights that have been enshrined in some countries’ constitutions.   

I want to emphasize the importance of legislation because the United Nations is a body that is pulled together by normative agreements. If we fail to address legislation, we fail on one of the most helpful instruments that we have as an intergovernmental body. We have parliaments, municipalities, different forms of governance, all of which have powers to change rules and legislation.

Goal 5 supports us in ensuring that the laws that are somehow undermined by cultural practices and norms can work in the way originally intended.  This is a recognition that addressing norms and stereotypes is also part of the work of implementing the SDGs that we have to address.

Goal 5 also focuses on ending violence against women. One in three women and girls in all countries live with some form of violence. This includes sexual violence, harassment at work, sexual violence in conflict, early marriage, ‘honour killings’, as well as violence that is psychological. Goal 5 calls on all of us in all our countries to take decisive steps to end violence against women. In many countries this means ensuring that our law enforcement works effectively for women. It involves the prevention of domestic and other forms of violence through education. It means investing in services such as shelter, psychosocial support, and ensuring that we engage men and boys so that they too can become committed activists to end gender-based violence.   

Ladies and gentlemen, violence has a high cost for our countries. Intimate-partner violence accounts for some 5 per cent of the global economy. This is equivalent to a sum of USD 1.5 trillion. We must end violence, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because our countries are losing precious resources as a result of violence against women.

Goal 5 also focuses on ending harmful practices for women and girls, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, but also other subtle practices such as the stereotyped portrayal of women in the media, all of which sustain gender inequality. More than 700 million women who are alive today were married as children before the age of 18. The numbers are not going down fast enough and substantively enough. If we do not take action to change this trajectory, we risk again having millions of women trapped in situations where their development is compromised and arrested.

Goal 5 also focuses on redistributing unpaid care work, starting with unpaid care work that is experienced at home, where women who are mothers take the bulk of the responsibility for care for children, elderly relatives and other societal care work. In many countries this care work stops women pursuing employment, and it can stop girls from following their schoolwork.

In addition, when women provide paid care work, such as domestic care work, it is underpaid, and unprotected. Women are 80 per cent of the world’s domestic workers, an industry with 67 million people in it. In most countries this work is unregulated, for example, 36 per cent of women who are domestic workers are not entitled to maternity protection. Addressing these injustices in the care economy could change the quality of life for many women. Women migrants who are domestic workers send remittances back home that support their families, provide shelter, education, and medical care. If we are able to stabilize this industry we can create a chain of positive impact.

Goal 5 also focuses on increasing women’s participation in decision-making. This is a problem and a challenge in all countries.  It is projected that unless we change the level at which women are participating in politics, it will take us more than 50 years to reach equality between women and men in political participation. If we do not take an active role in changing gender equality and women’s participation in the economy, it will take 170 years for women to achieve equal economic opportunity to men. Clearly we need to use the opportunity we have in the SDGs to shorten these time frames.

Goal 5 also addresses sexual and reproductive health and rights. It address the importance of reducing early and unwanted pregnancies, and ensuring access to family planning products. Access to these products for many women is a game changer. When women cannot pace when to have children, their lives are not in their hands. Women’s ability to make decisions about their bodies not only a right, it is critical for their health. Goal 5 addresses this critical area.

Goal 5 also addresses the need to guarantee the right to economic resources and full economic participation. Women’s economic empowerment addresses women in senior decision-making economic structures and also those in the informal sector who are not covered by policies that protect them. The achievement of economic empowerment for women working in the informal sector for example, can change their lives and sustainably alleviate poverty.

The holistic nature of the SDG framework means that the goals bolster and support each other. We know that a solid education leads to decent work and reliable income for both men and women. Decent work will ensure that many women have a predictable income and access to the labour market will give women choice so that they are able to remove themselves from harmful relationships once they can sustain themselves economically.

Women in the informal sector comprise as much as 50 per cent of the people who work in some countries.  Through the SDGs we encourage governments to deal with their macroeconomic and fiscal policies in a manner that addresses the informal sector. For example, in India, some 120 million women work informally. We cannot ignore this large number of women. In Mexico, 12 million women work in the informal sector. The absence of policies for women in these large numbers in these different countries means that we are losing an opportunity for the meaningful economic empowerment of women.

The SDGs and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are about leaving no one behind. The focus is on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, for example, on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, location, disability or sexual orientation. If we fail to focus on this aspect of intersectionality, we risk leaving many people behind.

Women who are afflicted by conflict are often unable to benefit even when there are interventions or resources that are addressing their situation. Women living in war zones are victimized by war tactics such as sexual violence.  Yet women who are actively trying to bring about peace in their countries are often ignored as peace-makers and peace-builders. In the SDGs we make the case for effective participation of these women as part of the implementation of the many decisions on women and peace and security that are enshrined in UN Security Council resolution 1325.

In order to address and to use the SDGs effectively we need to be inclusive. In order to address gender inequality we need to broaden the base of stakeholders that are involved in addressing the issue.  We therefore have called upon significant involvement of leaders.

Last year we convened a meeting of Heads of State and Government. We discussed with them the role of global leaders in addressing gender inequality. More than 70 Heads of State and Government participated in the dialogue. This is something that we hope to sustain so that the issue of addressing gender inequality is not left only to women, but ministries of gender are also supported by their Heads of State.

We also have extended invitations for the participation of men and boys as partners in addressing gender inequality. Many are Heads of State, leaders of corporations, or principals of universities. Their role and effective participation is also critical.

At this time when we address gender-based violence during the 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women, we invite active participation of men. It is important that men are the ones who stand up and say ‘I will not beat up a woman’, ‘I will go to court and demand justice for a woman’, ‘I will not marry a child’, ‘I will not look away when I see an injustice being done to my daughter-in –law, my mother, my sister, my friend’, and ‘I will take action to end violence against women’.

As far as the private sector is concerned, we have also reached out them to address gender equality in the workplace. Through our HeForShe movement, which brings together men and boys as activists for gender equality, we have asked for commitments on action to address gender inequality. For Heads of State, their issues include taking on the ending of child marriage, issues of equal pay, or of ensuring that there is adequate access to girls’ education. In the private sector, the leaders that we are working with have taken it upon themselves to address the representation of women at senior levels of their boards, and bring together a pipeline of women that they are recruiting to position for leadership. In many companies they are also addressing the issues of violence, or harassment of women in the workplace. We have asked all the leaders who are participating to look at investing in this Agenda, as there is very limited investment in addressing gender equality.

Youth is an important constituency for implementing Agenda 2030 and addressing gender inequality.  We have reached out to young people, we have a Youth version of our Commission on the Status of Women, and we are developing more activities that bring young people together.

Ladies and gentlemen – we are considering the question of whether the SDGs address gender inequality.

All the actions that I have highlighted are do-able. We can do something substantive about ending violence against women, and addressing legislation that sustains gender inequality. We can address reproductive rights and health, and sexual rights and sexual health of women. We can do something about unequal representation of women, and we can do something about unpaid care work of women. We can ensure that cultural practices such as child marriages and female genital mutilation are ended in our lifetime. 

Between now and 2020, we are asking member states, and all of us, to focus on strategic interventions that will ensure that in 2020 we can see we are going in the right direction. By 2030, we are hoping that, if we all act and work together and implement these agreements that bind all of us, we should be able to see substantive equality.

It should be possible for a child who is born 10 years from now to ask us, ‘Is it true that women were so severely discriminated against?’ By that time inequality will be more of an exception than the rule, and the next generation will live in a world that is free from this form of discrimination. It is in our hands to achieve that. We are the first generation to have the possibility to make this a reality. All of the agreements that we make, and the mutually reinforcing Sustainable Development Goals, bring to us a diverse range of stakeholders that we never had access to before. If we harness that effectively, I think that we are on the right track, with action, commitment, and implementation.

Thank you.


Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November, 2016

18 November 2016

We believe in and work for a world where women and girls can flourish and prosper peacefully alongside men and boys, sharing in and benefitting from societies that value their skills and accept their leadership. Violence against women and girls has a devastating impact on individuals and on the society.

Women and girls who experience violence lose their dignity, they live in fear and pain, and in the worst cases they pay with their lives. Violence cuts deeply into the liberties we should all have: the right to be safe at home, the right to walk safely on the streets, the right to go to school, to work, to the market or to watch a film. We should be able to expect that attackers will be punished, that justice will be done, and that we can get care and support for injuries.

Yet, still in many countries, the laws are inadequate, the police force is uninterested, shelters, heath care and support are unavailable, and the criminal justice system is remote, expensive and biased against women and in favour of the male perpetrators. Change to these elements has a cost, yet the price of no change is unacceptable. 

Experts are unanimous that the benefit of ending violence against women and girls would far outweigh the investment necessary. We know that even relatively small-scale investments that are timely and well targeted can bring enormous benefits to women and girls and to their wider communities. For example, in Timor-Leste a simple and very effective three-year programme to provide a package of essential services for women who had experienced violence cost a fraction of one per cent of GDP, but had significant impact on women’s health and well-being. Practical changes in market infrastructure, business training and provision of cashless payments transformed the environment, prospects and confidence of women stallholders in the markets of Papua New Guinea. In Uganda, a community programme brought together women and men, religious and community leaders, to change social norms, with a resulting reduction of 52 per cent in intimate partner violence.

These successes shed light on practical ways in which we can make progress. We can make inroads into the underlying issues of inequality and prejudice within our societies that enable and enflame violence against women and girls. We can scale up prevention and increase appropriate services. We can begin to bend the curve down and bring the scourge of violence against women and girls to an end. Doing so will take commitment, and investment, nationally and internationally. 

The extent to which violence is embedded in the society means that uprooting it is also a job for all of society. Changing the culture also means engaging allies, such as men and boys, religious groups and young people, using channels such as sports, arts, business, academia and faith to connect and convince.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development gives us tools with which to achieve this. Its ambitious targets demand innovative solutions and new partnerships to mobilize resources, including from national governments, overseas development assistance, private enterprise and philanthropic bodies and individuals. Today, on this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we recall this universal Agenda, universally agreed, we recognize the inextricable link between success in both, and commit again to achieving it.