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Statement at the Human Rights Council for International Women’s Day

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
8 March 2019

Distinguished President of the Council,
Excellencies,

Today is a day for celebration and action. We acknowledge and celebrate the advances the world has made towards gender equality. We honor the women and girls who, by demanding their rights, have made our societies more just, most prosperous, more resilient.  And we take this opportunity to plan new steps towards equality.

Women and girls still suffer widespread and damaging human rights violations. As in the past, those who demand equality are viewed as threats. They are accused of betraying traditional roles, and exposed to smear campaigns and attacks.

History teaches us that our fears of challenging culture and tradition should not hold us back from ending cruelty and promoting justice. Torture was once a commonly accepted practice. Slavery was considered part of the natural order of things. Some called apartheid part of culture.

Women human rights defenders demand equality – and this is what the world needs. Today's theme, “The better the balance, the better our world,” expresses this perfectly. We need the equal involvement, voice and contributions of half the world’s population if we are going to solve the complex and urgent challenges of climate change, conflict, inequality, development – and many more.

I stand in support and solidarity with all girls and women of the world, its activists and movements who are on the frontlines to win hearts and minds for the rights, autonomy, dignity and choices of women and girls. I call on men and boys to join us in this task.

We need to amplify our voices, multiply them, and help them connect with broad audiences, for genuine dialogue – including on topics which may seem uncomfortable. Only then will we ensure the profound transformation that we need, from acceptance and accommodation of so-called “women’s needs”, to genuine inclusion and co-design of equal societies.

I trust all Member States will stand up for women human rights, as I do.