REMARKS BY UN RESIDENT COORDINATOR, MARIA JOSE AT THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY COMMEMORATIONMar 12, 2018
On behalf of the United Nations in Malawi, I am honoured to be here today, at the commemoration of the International Women’s Day 2018 with the theme: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming girls and women’s lives”. As we celebrate, let us recognize the tireless work of women activists both old and young who have been central to an unprecedented global movement for women’s and girls’ rights, equality, safety and justice.
“Gender equality and Women’s Empowerment is the unfinished business of our time” said today Antonio Gutierres, UN Secretary General.
Guest of honour, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, for millions of women and girls around the world, gender equality and access to human rights remains elusive. For instance, nearly 14 million children are forced into marriage every year; that is 37,000 girls being denied their fundamental human rights every single day! Every year one in every three women is subjected to gender-based violence; and 16 women die every single day due to child birth related complications.Violence, sexual harassment and discrimination against women have captured headlines and public discourse across the world and in Malawi recently.
Across all regions, women are more likely to live in extreme poverty than men. This gender gap is as high as 22 per cent for the 25 - 34 age group—women’s peak reproductive years, starkly highlighting the dilemma so many of them face in reconciling income with care—for which policy change and action is needed. More than 50 per cent of urban women and girls in developing countries live in conditions where they lack at least one of the following: access to clean water, improved sanitation facilities, durable housing, and sufficient living area. Women and girls, are often invisible, but dealing with similar or even harsher forms of discrimination than women and girls in urban settings.
There has also been progress…progress that we need to celebrate in International Women’s Day!
In January this year, Iceland became the first country to enforce its equal pay law, making this a compulsory requirement rather than a voluntary one. In 2017, Lebanon, Jordan and Tunisia repealed laws that allowed rapists to avoid prosecution if they married their victims.
Here in Malawi, parliament has enacted key legislations that promote and protect the rights of women and girls. These include the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, the Gender Equality Act, amongst others. Parliament recently adopted a constitutional amendment that raises the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18 years in 2017. The unflagging advocacy of activists was instrumental in lobbying for these legislations.
International Women’s Day should be a moment to reflect, to acknowledge that we can do better,… it is our collective responsibility to do better to achieve gender equality
There is mobilization in rural areas, a kind of activism that is bringing change in rural areas and transforming lives. We want to salute all our activists on IWD! We want to recognize the value to continue adding He for She champions. We celebrate and acknowledge those unsung heroes who provide a voice for the voiceless. There is still work to be done by all of us! We must deliberately create stronger support for women’s political activism and a broader space for women’s civil society voices so that our combined efforts target those who truly need change the most.
Stop violence, end discrimination, “Nthawi Yakwana”.
The International Women’s Day comes at an opportune time as globally there is a push for a more equal society. This is a human rights agenda. The Secretary General of the UN has called to stand in solidarity with all those fearless women and girls who have been central to the push to end gender discrimination, and to call for urgent action to achieve lasting, meaningful change. Empowered women and girls also need men and boys valuing and respecting them. We are all responsible for behaviour change. Addressing stereotypes require decisive action by educators, politicians, political parties, families, businesses, civil society organizations, media, religious and faith organizations. We want nothing less that societies with zero tolerance to violence and abuse. We know that ending discrimination is the agenda for change, the agenda of sustainable development.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let me end by reiterating the UN ’s support towards achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women. The United Nations will continue pushing for the Gender Parity agenda through 2030. The Sustainable Development Goals would not be achieved until all women and girls everywhere are on an equal footing with men and have the power and the means to exercise their basic human rights.
With these remarks, I thank you for your attention