Virtual Townhall Meeting with Women's Civil Society and UN Secretary-General

Join UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UN-Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka for a special Townhall Meeting with Women’s Civil Society participants of The Commission on the Status of Women.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said women need to be “front and centre of the recovery from the pandemic, not as a matter of charity, not even as a matter of justice and basic human rights,” but as a matter of “economics, of efficiency and effectiveness, of social and community resilience.”

Speaking today (16 Mar) at a town hall meeting with civil society representatives on the sidelines of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Guterres said there was new evidence almost every day that the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for women’s rights, and particularly the rights of the most vulnerable, including poor women, women working in the informal economy, and indigenous women.

The Secretary-General said gender-based violence was an emergency even before COVID-19 and has become a shadow pandemic that will continue well after the pandemic is over.

Guterres said, “Despite these serious setbacks to gender equality and women’s rights, there is a huge gender gap in the task forces and panels that are supposed to be building the recovery. There is simply no excuse for this. Male-dominated teams will come up with male-dominated solutions.”

The UN chief stressed that “we cannot go back to the failed man-made policies that have resulted in the fragility we see around us – in healthcare systems, in social protection, in access to justice, and in the wellbeing of our planet.” He added, “We need to take the opportunity of a reset, based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to ensure that everyone enjoys the right to life, dignity, and security on a healthy planet. And we need to localize the SDGs, working with you, our civil society partners, to deliver real change on the ground.”

Guterres noted that the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls can provide a new model for such partnerships with both national governments and civil society.

The UN chief said women’s full representation and leadership “are a prerequisite for making the best use of all our resources,” and women have proven this once again during the pandemic. He stressed, “Gender equality is a question of power. We still live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture. A few women leaders are not enough. It is when we have many women in power that we transform power itself.”

Guterres called on leaders in all sectors to step up and take transformative action, to build women’s representation, participation and leadership. These include realizing women’s equal rights by repealing all discriminatory laws and enacting positive measures, taking concrete steps to ensure women have equal representation everywhere, supporting women’s economic inclusion, addressing violence against women and girls, and making space for the intergenerational transition that is already underway.

The Secretary-General noted that the upcoming Generation Equality Forum,will be an important opportunity to advance this agenda, adding that governments, corporations, civil society, young people and change makers from all sectors will come together, to define and announce ambitious investments and policies.

With vaccines giving hope to end the pandemic, Guterres underscored that the world should not be talking about getting back to normal, adding that it has become clear that what was considered normal was often discriminatory, unjust and unsustainable. He said civil society is at the vanguard of the movement towards a safer, fairer, more inclusive and equal world and the the United Nations will continue to work closely with it to reignite the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.


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