Video Statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet
21 June 2021
As United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and as one of the Leaders of the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Feminist Movements and Leadership, I am pleased to address this summit.
The unwavering commitment of women leaders have yielded many advances in our path towards gender equality, especially since the adoption of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action twenty-five years ago.
The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening those hard-won gains. Longstanding exclusion and discrimination means that women in all their diversity have both been disproportionately affected and left out of the decision-making in response efforts. The absence of women at the table is reflected in what we prioritise – and, critically - in what we do not.
At the same time, the past year has been a testament of the importance of women’s leadership -- in COVID-19 and beyond. In governments, it leads to greater investments in social protection, the environment and climate justice. In peace-negotiations, it is linked to more durable solutions. And in the private sector, to better business performance.
Yet, despite all the evidence, women in leadership positions still face resistance, suspicion and even hostility, based on stereotypes about their capabilities and their place in society. From a very young age, women are led to judge and doubt themselves.
So, how can we make women leadership “the new normal”?
First, gender equality is an urgent imperative. It is at the heart of recovering better from the pandemic and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The right of all women and girls to meaningful participation is key. An end to gender-based and intersectional discrimination must no longer be treated as an afterthought – it is not an optional measure.
Second, we need to politically, publicly and financially support feminist leadership and movements -- especially in the face of the impacts of COVID-19, a backlash against women’s rights and a shrinking civic space.
Third, each and every one of us, in our respective spheres of influence, can do a lot to promote gender equality and women’s leadership. We do so by calling out sexist attitudes and by cherishing sisterhood and solidarity; by celebrating the success of women in power and by consciously encouraging young girls to be outspoken; and by demanding action from States – and acting ourselves.
As Tony Morrison said, “if you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
With our power, our voices and our energy, let us all contribute to an environment where women and girls in all their diversity have their rights respected and are empowered to pursue their dreams and realize their full potential.