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Statement at the Human Rights Council for International Women’s Day
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
Geneva, 6 March 2020


Excellencies,

Colleagues, Friends,

On Sunday, the world will commemorate International Women's Day. In 2020, this day is particularly significant as this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, an ambitious and visionary roadmap for gender equality.

When women from all geographies, of every age and social class, surged forward at the Beijing World Conference 25 years ago, it was with this clarion call: "women's rights are human rights."

They were not requesting any kind of privilege or seeking special entitlements. They were demanding that every country, every legal system, every employer and school, every judge and official acknowledge, in law and in practice, that women have exactly the same rights as men.

They wanted women's human rights, equality and dignity to be firmly placed on the agenda of the international community. And they were largely successful.

Representatives from 189 countries pledged to achieve equality for women, so that all women and girls could exercise their inalienable rights and freedoms as human beings. Coupled with the unwavering commitment of women and girl activists across the world, this commitment led to action and many remarkable achievements by individuals, communities and States.

Today, we must celebrate this progress. But we must also remind ourselves that achieving women's equal human rights is an ongoing struggle. The agenda is unfinished and the most affected are women and girls suffering from multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination: women and girls living in poverty, belonging to minorities, women migrants and refugees, women of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity; women with disabilities.

On the 25th anniversary of the historical and visionary Beijing Declaration, we cannot accept the slow and uneven pace of progress.

We must do more.

I look forward to fully engaging in the Generation Equality Forums later this year and to work with Member States, civil society, the private sectors, and all stakeholders to accelerate progress towards full gender equality. 

A few days ago, my Office launched the 2020 edition of the "I Stand With Her" campaign with a focus on challenging harmful views and beliefs about the roles and characteristics of women and girls. Such views and beliefs are pervasive in all countries and lie at the heart of gender-based discrimination. The wire us to perpetuate exclusion and oppression. Challenging them is the first step to advance our rights. The campaign will raise awareness about these harmful narratives and call to #ChangetheStory.  I hope that you will participate in this much needed conversation.

Dear colleagues, friends,

We have the knowledge, alliances, and capacities we need to advance towards gender equality. Now we must find within us the unity of vision and purpose that prevailed in Beijing to make this a realty. Together we can change the story. We can free ourselves from the narrow expectations that societies attach to our gender and build societies where we are all free and equal in dignity and rights.

Happy International Women Day.