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António Guterres (UN Secretary-General) at High-Level meeting on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Africa at the African Union Summit
8 Feb 2020 -  Remarks by António Guterres (UN Secretary-General) at the High-Level meeting on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In 1995, African women made their voices heard during the Beijing World Conference on Women.

It was a pivotal moment for global recognition of the rights of women and girls.

African women were also instrumental in advocating for the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 on women peace and security two decades ago, which recognised the vital contribution of women to the pursuit of peace and called for their inclusion in all levels of negotiation processes.

Some of these trailblazers are featured in the UN-AU Commemorative Book, “She Stands for Peace”, which we will launch this evening.

For us all, this year’s anniversaries of Beijing+25 and of resolution 1325 must push us further and faster towards progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Africa’s women have seen considerable advances.

Women’s political representation has doubled – though men still currently hold over 75 per cent of seats in Africa’s parliaments.

Girls’ access to education and healthcare continues to increase.

And Africa is the only region in the world where more women than men choose to become entrepreneurs.

Research shows that accelerating progress on gender equality could boost African economies by 10 per cent by 2025.

Yet, progress still falls short of the commitments made in 1995. Let’s be frank, in Africa, as all over the world, we live in a male dominated world with a male dominated culture.

This is essentially a question of power. What I have learned since being a young boy is that power is not usually given. Power must be taken.

As it is a question of power, as my dear friend [AU Commission Chair] Moussa Faki said, parity in decision making bodies is absolutely essential. And I am very happy to say that we are following the example he has led in the African Union and I can announce that, since the first of January, we have, for the first time in the history of the United Nations, full gender parity in the high-level management of the UN. We have full parity in Under Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General in the Secretariat and the Funds and Programmes – eighty men and eighty women. This represents a first step for full gender parity in 2028 at all levels of the UN which remains our basic objectives.

But poverty in Africa, as in the rest of the world, still has a woman’s face.

For every 100 men aged between 25 and 34 living in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, there are 127 women.

Women are often concentrated in precarious jobs and they carry a disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work.

Violence against women remains pervasive.

I was High Commissioner for ten years and in Africa, as in many parts of the world, I have seen with my own eyes how women and girls are the main victims of conflict, the main victims of displacement and the main victims of in terms of instability in any part of the world.

Although by now we clearly understand the benefits – indeed the imperative – of inclusion and gender equality for achieving peace and sustainable development, our actions fall short.

As the world recommits to achieving irreversible progress towards gender equality, I encourage African States, in partnership with civil society and other stakeholders, to contribute to the Beijing+25 Action Coalitions.

These Action Coalitions will build on our successes and take forward the remaining promises of the African Women’s Decade, which is concluding this year. ....
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