UN Peacekeeping
Mar 8 · 2 min read

By António Guterres

Marching to mark 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in El Fasher, North Darfur, Sudan. UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

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

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.

The author is the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

This excerpt was taken from the message of the Secretary-General on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2019.

UN Peacekeeping

UN Peacekeeping helps countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace.

UN Peacekeeping

Written by

We help countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace.

UN Peacekeeping

UN Peacekeeping helps countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade