High-Level Event on Women in Power

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12-Mar-2019 03:54:01
Women’s participation in exercising political power cannot be disputed, says General Assembly President, opening High-Level Event.

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When women work to rise to the top, whether in politics, business or community advocacy, they face resistance, discrimination, social stereotypes and double standards, the President of the General Assembly said today as she opened a high-level event on “Women in Power”.

The figures speak for themselves, 90 per cent of Heads of Government are men, said María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador), calling on world leaders to demonstrate the political will needed to change the course of history.

The great majority of countries have never been governed by women, she continued. If the current trend continues, achieving equality will take over 100 years. Women face myriad challenges in politics. They are judged by how they look and how they are dressed, more than their ideas. And when they do express their views and opinions, they are held to a much higher standard than men.

This situation is real, and we must work to combat it, she stressed. Underrepresentation of women in political life contributes to exacerbating inequality. The benefits of women’s participation in exercising political power clearly cannot be called into question. If half of the population is excluded, sustainable development is just a thought. It has been shown that a greater representation of women in parliaments ensures reform of discriminatory laws.

Women also play a key role in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, she emphasized. When they take part in peace talks, the likelihood of that agreement lasting is increased. Women must consider what makes them different and how, when they do reach positions of power, they can help build healthy and inclusive societies. “It is not an easy task, but if anyone knows how to struggle, it is us,” she emphasised.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated that gender equality is a question of power. “We still live in a male‑dominated world and in a male‑dominated culture,” he added. “But, I can tell you that we will push back against the pushback.” The world needs parity and to change power relations of society. This will advance peace and security and human rights for all. Gender equality is a fundamental tool. When women have equal opportunity at work productivity accelerates. But, when they are excluded everyone pays a price. The objective is to build better societies and push boundaries of the possible.

Geraldine Byrne Nason (Ireland), Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, said the power that females need is still elusive. Governments and elected politicians have the power and responsibility to implement change. “These are vital bread‑and‑butter issues that matter to women and girls,” she stressed. This year the Commission’s deliberations focus on schools, access to health care, pensions and the fair distribution of unpaid work. These issues often define a women’s future. Their absence could subject a woman to a lifetime of unfulfilled potential. “We are depending on you to help us find the way,” she added.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General for Gender Equality and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), underscored the unprecedented number of females in power at the United Nations. However, the number of women in senior positions in government and business remains dismally low. “We are obliged to be change‑makers,” she said. Women who are without work and the women who carry the burden of society should be able to depend on women leaders to advocate for them. All those women need social protection and infrastructure that works for them. “We need to rely on each other,” she added.

The Assembly also held round-table discussions later that morning titled “How women Leaders Change the World” and “Future of Women’s Leadership”.

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