The UN Women has called on the global community to deliberately create stronger support for women’s political activism and a broader space for women’s civil society voices.
In a statement, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women, for International Women’s Day, said that was necessary to combine “our efforts to target those who truly need change most.”
“The culture of gender-based poverty, abuse and exploitation has to end with a new generation of equality that lasts,” she added.
UN Women has a special relationship with the women’s movement which arose from that activism. Civil society has had a historically crucial role in leading global action on gender equality by promoting reform, highlighting the complexities of the challenges facing women, influencing policies, participating in monitoring and upholding accountability.
This year’s theme: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives,” captures the vibrant life of the women activists whose passion and commitment have won women’s rights over the generations, and successfully brought change, Madam Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
“We celebrate an unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality, safety and justice; recognising the tireless work of activists who have been central to this global push for gender equality.
“What we see today is a remarkable gathering of strength among women all over the world, demonstrating the power of speaking with one voice, as they call for opportunity and accountability, drawing momentum from grass-roots networks and coalitions that stretch right up to government leadership,” Madam Mlambo-Ngcuka added.
She stated that those movements grew from the work of multi-generational activists - from the late feminist human rights leader, Asma Jahangir of Pakistan, to the powerful new generation represented by young women such as Jaha Dukureh of The Gambia, UN Women’s Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Africa on ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.
According to Madam Mlambo-Ngcuka, healthy societies had a wide mix of voices and influences that provide the checks and balances, the differing threads of experience and perspectives, as well as the debate that shapes good decision making.
She said where voices were missing, there was an important gap in the fabric of society, adding, “when those quietened voices count in the millions, we know there is something wrong with our world. Similarly, as we see and hear those voices rise in strength and solidarity, we feel the power of something right.’’
“We salute those who have bravely spoken out to gain access to justice, such as those from the #MeToo movement, who in recent months have found their voice on social media in more than 85 countries to expose those who have preyed on the less powerful and shown how when women support one another, they help to overcome stigma and ensure that their stories are believed.
“We acknowledge those who have taken to the streets in India to decry the murder and rape of young children, turning protests into broader-based movements that engage entire communities. We honour the indigenous leaders who have stood up for their custodial rights to land and traditional practices, as the human rights defenders who have even lost their lives for their cause,” she said.