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The Gender Power Gap

By Antonio Guterres

8 March 2020

Gender inequality is the overwhelming injustice of our age and the biggest human rights challenge we face. But gender equality offers solutions to some of the most intractable problems of our age.

Everywhere, women are worse off than men – simply because they are women. The reality for women from minorities, older women, those with disabilities and women migrants and refugees is even worse.

While we have seen enormous progress on women’s rights over recent decades, from the abolition of discriminatory laws to increased numbers of girls in school, we now face a powerful pushback. Legal protections against rape and domestic abuse are being diluted in some countries while policies that penalize women, from austerity to coercive reproduction, are being introduced in others. Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are under threat from all sides.

All this is because gender equality is fundamentally a question of power. Centuries of discrimination and deep-rooted patriarchy have created a yawning gender power gap in our economies, our political systems and our corporations. The evidence is everywhere.

Women are still excluded from the top table, from governments to corporate boards to prestigious award ceremonies. Women leaders and public figures face harassment, threats and abuse online and off. The gender pay gap is just a symptom of the gender power gap.

Even the supposedly neutral data that informs decision-making from urban planning to drug testing is often based on a “default male”; men are seen as standard while women are an exception.

Women and girls also contend with centuries of misogyny and the erasure of their achievements. They are ridiculed as hysterical or hormonal; they are routinely judged on their looks; they are subjected to endless myths and taboos about their natural bodily functions; they are confronted by everyday sexism, mansplaining and victim-blaming.

This profoundly affects us all, and is a barrier to solving many of the challenges and threats we face.

Take inequality. Women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. The latest research by the World Economic Forum says it will take 257 years to close this gap. Meanwhile women and girls do some 12 billion hours of unpaid care work every day that simply does not figure in economic decision-making. If we are to achieve a fair globalization that works for everyone, we need to base our policies on statistics that take account of women’s true contributions.

Digital technology is another case in point. The lack of gender balance in the universities, start-ups and Silicon Valleys of our world is deeply worrying. These tech hubs are shaping the societies and economies of the future; we cannot allow them to entrench and exacerbate male dominance.

Or take the wars that are ravaging our world. There is a straight line between violence against women, civil oppression and conflict. How a society treats the female half of its population is a significant indicator of how it will treat others. Even in peaceful societies, many women are in deadly danger in their own homes.

There is even a gender gap in our response to the climate crisis. Initiatives to reduce and recycle are overwhelmingly marketed at women, while men are more likely to put their faith in untested technological fixes. And women economists and parliamentarians are more likely than men to support pro-environmental policies.

Finally, political representation is the clearest evidence of the gender power gap. Women are outnumbered by an average of 3 to 1 in parliaments around the world, but their presence is strongly correlated with innovation and investment in health and education. It is no coincidence that the governments that are redefining economic success to include wellbeing and sustainability are led by women.

This is why one of my first priorities at the United Nations was to bring more women into our leadership. We have now achieved gender parity at the senior level, two years ahead of schedule, and we have a roadmap for parity at all levels in the years to come.

Our world is in trouble, and gender equality is an essential part of the answer. Man-made problems have human-led solutions. Gender equality is a means of redefining and transforming power that will yield benefits for all.

The 21st century must be the century of women’s equality in peace negotiations and trade talks; in board rooms and classrooms; at the G20 and the United Nations.

It is time to stop trying to change women, and to start changing the systems that prevent them from achieving their potential. [Ends]

Antonio Guterres is the secretary-general of the United Nations.

 

 

 

New UN Publications: September 2019

“Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 – The Future is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development.”
The Global Sustainable Development Report reflects the universal, indivisible and integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also seeks to strengthen the science-policy interface as an evidence-based instrument to support policymakers and other stakeholders in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda across the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. It highlights state-of-the-art knowledge for transformations towards sustainable development and identifies concrete areas where rapid, transformational change is possible. It uses the latest scientific assessments, evidence bases about good practices, and scenarios that link future trajectories to current actions to identify calls to action by a range of stakeholders that can accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Bibliographic info:
Publisher: UNDESA
pp. 216

 

 

“Trends in Maternal Mortality (2000 -2017).”
This report presents global, regional and country-level estimates and trends for maternal mortality between 2000 and 2017. It provides the definitions of key terms and describes the key measures relevant to maternal mortality. It also describes in detail the methodology employed to develop the estimates and presents the estimates and trends at the global, regional and country levels.

Bibliographic info:
Publisher: WHO
ISBN: 978-92-4-151648-8
pp. 104

 

 

“Levels and Trends in Child Mortality – United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME), Report 2019.”
This report presents UNIGME’s latest estimates – through 2018 – of neonatal, infant and under-five mortality as well as mortality among children aged 5–14 years. It assesses progress in the reduction of child and young adolescent mortality at the country, regional and global levels, and provides an overview of the methods used to estimate the mortality indicators above.

Bibliographic info:
Publisher: UN IGME
pp. 50

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UN Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, 9 August 2019

UN Photo

This year marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages, declared by the United Nations General Assembly to draw attention to the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote indigenous languages.

Languages are how we communicate, and they are inextricably linked to our cultures, histories and identity.  Almost half of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages – of which most are indigenous — are in danger of disappearing.  With every language that disappears, the world loses a wealth of traditional knowledge.

There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world.  A significant proportion still lack basic rights, with systematic discrimination and exclusion continuing to threaten ways of life, cultures and identities.  This is contrary to the intent of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its promise to leave no one behind.

I count on Member States to engage and support indigenous peoples in determining their own development through policies that are inclusive, equitable and accessible.  The United Nations stands ready to support all initiatives aimed at realizing the rights and aspirations of indigenous peoples.

Read about the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

 

UN Philippines joins Pride March for LGBTQI rights

 

Manila, 29 June–Staff members of the United Nations (UN) in the Philippines, led by the UN Resident Coordinator in the country, Ola Almgren, joined the Metro Manila Pride March and Festival today in support of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) Filipinos.

The UN contingent participated under the banner of two UN campaigns for LGBTQI equality: UN Free & Equal and UN Globe. UN Free & Equal is a public information campaign while UN Globe is a UN staff initiative to advocate for the equality and non-discrimination of LGBTQI staff in the UN system and its peacekeeping operations. Both campaigns reinforce the UN Philippines system’s commitment to stand in solidarity with LGBTQI Filipinos, their families, friends and allies, in their pursuit of diversity, inclusion and pride.

“The UN is committed to action,” Almgren said. “We work with decision makers, human rights institutions and community leaders to change discriminatory laws and to put legal protections in place.”

The UN Philippines commends the cities and provinces in the Philippines that have adopted and are implementing ordinances that prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE). However, these local government units (LGUs) are still in the minority. Only 21 of the 1,634 cities and municipalities and six out of the 81 provinces in the Philippines have anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs). This leaves 79.2% of Filipinos, or close to 80 million people, without protection against SOGIE-based discrimination.

The UN Philippines therefore affirms its support for the LGBTQI community’s call for the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill and urges renewed efforts to push for its enactment by the 18th session of Congress.

“We have momentum on our side. But we need to come together to address the remaining challenges,” Almgren said.

See photos of the event: https://bit.ly/2IYfdzf

Read the UN Resident Coordinator’s op-ed, “The UN stands with Pride”: https://bit.ly/2KPf2s8