UN chief calls for measures to promote gender equality

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for measures to promote gender equality.

There have been significant victories since the World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, but progress has been too slow, he told the Generation Equality Forum.

Gender equality is essentially a question of power — and power remains predominantly in the hands of men, he said.

In many places, the very idea of gender equality has come under attack. Regressive laws are back, and horrific violence against women is increasing. Furthermore, the seismic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic have shattered the lives of millions of women and girls and destroyed many of the gains since 1995, he noted.

“It is time to regroup and re-energize our quest to create a more equal, more just, more sustainable world in which all people can realize their human rights without discrimination and without fear,” he said.

He asked countries to focus on five critical steps as they recover from the pandemic: protect women’s equal rights and repeal discriminatory laws; ensure equal representation — from company boards to parliaments and beyond — through special measures and quotas; advance women’s economic inclusion through equal pay, job protection, targeted credit and investments in the care economy and social protection; immediately enact emergency response plans to address violence against women and girls; and give space to the inter-generational transition that is under way and to the young people who are advocating for a more just and equitable world.

“The realization of the equal rights of half our population is the unfinished human rights struggle of this century,” said Guterres.

The Generation Equality Forum, which kicked off in Mexico City on Monday, is a civil society-centered, global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France.

The secretary-general addressed the forum virtually.